Monday, January 05, 2009

What can you do on *your* library's website?

In a post titled Doing Stuff at the Library’s Website, library blogger David Lee King asks:

Here’s something to ponder, next time you’re looking for something to ponder. What can you actually DO at your website? Can you do most of the the real “stuff” that your library offers as activities?

He then lists the types of things that you can do if you walk into your physical library:

  • check out a book
  • read a book or magazine
  • take notes and do research
  • put a public PC on reserve for later
  • pester the reference librarian with questions
  • check stuff out when I’m done
  • attend a training session or a fun program
Without making judgments about whether patrons should be able to do all of the above, I thought it would be fun if us Alaskan librarians shared what is possible to do on our websites. So, please consider copying and pasting the list above into a comment and let us know each of the things a patron can do on your website. For each thing that can be done, list where.

I'll get the ball rolling with an unofficial assessment of what you can do at the Alaska State Library's website at

  • check out a book - Only if it is an audio book. Cardholders can do that at
  • read a book or magazine - They can read magazines by visiting our journal finder tool at and either browse the title lists or type in the name of a specific magazine or journal. They can read SOME (state-published) books by visiting our State Publications shipping lists at or by searching our catalog for e-books (mostly older Netlibrary titles).
  • take notes and do research - Patrons can't take notes on our website, but they can do research - either by visiting our databases page at OR by going to our new division page at and using the search box which pulls up content from web pages at the State Archives and State Museum as well as the State Library. Type in "governor egan" without quotes for an example.
  • put a public PC on reserve for later - our patrons can't do this in person.
  • pester the reference librarian with questions - We wouldn't call it pestering, but they can get an Ask-A-Librarian e-mail form by visiting
  • check stuff out when I’m done - Only audio books as noted above.
  • attend a training session or a fun program - Not yet, but we're working on it. More in the next few months.

That's what you can do by visiting the web site of the State Library. What can you do on yours? If there's something you can do that's not listed above, let us know.

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Anonymous Savannah Lewis said...

* check out a book--Nope: we operate on our state grant and a few hundred dollars in donations every year, and our director elects to put those into materials, not server space to run an opac (we get by with a very inexpensive and simple circ program). In such a small community, we can offer remote renew, reserve, etc. via phone or email ( the invitation to do so is on the site), and that seems to be taking care of those who can't stop by at a reasonable cost in time and lower cost in $$. And at least we do have a free-hosted website where we can post our new acquisitions so people can be tempted to come in by the things that they can check out.

* read a book or magazine--Not of ours, although we do point to the state databases on our site and to free online book sources through our public bookmarks account, also linked on the sidebar.

* take notes and do research--As above: state database and delicious links and contacts with local genealogy researchers.

* put a public PC on reserve for later--Nope: strictly first-come/first-served because the competition is too heated during the summer for our two machines. Judging by this summer's experience, however, adding wi-fi has eased the rush considerably PLUS expanded the hours of availability manyfold over our limited opening schedule.

* pester the reference librarian with questions--Sometimes, which actually means when I'm there to fire up the Meebo widget and take IMs; the other volunteers don't feel comfortable with "that computer stuff" yet. Frankly, it's not something our patrons seem very tuned into, either, except for the kids, who really only want to see if we'll do their work for them.

* check stuff out when I'm done--Nope; see above about phone/email services, though.

* attend a training session or a fun program--Again, not something we have the resources to support, although we do point to things offered elsewhere via our bookmarks.

Although there are a lot of "no" answers up there, given that we work with no online budget and volunteer staff only, we offer as much as I think we can reasonably manage and an amount that works fairly well for a tiny community that is increasingly seasonal and senior in nature. For most of our patrons, especially during the winter months, coming to the library for social interaction is part of the attraction, even though they may make use of our website to help them focus on what they want to do when they get there.

If there's something you can do that's not listed above, let us know.

Looking at our stats, we see a lot of traffic on our donations and wishlist pages (where by "lot" I am being purely relative, of course), so getting those questions answered without having to check with us seems to be a well-used activity. While we're working on all of the interactive bells and whistles, I think it's important not to lose sight of the value of simply providing clear, easily-found answers to basic questions about library operations since that availability in and of itself continues to gain us positive feedback from our patrons.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Hi Savannah,

I'm a big fan of your library's website and I think you do a fabulous job with what you have.

I think your point about "learning about library news" is well taken. We could also add "learn about new materials added to the library" which I think you and Ketchikan do particularly well. These are both things that people have generally needed to travel to the library to find out, even if the library had a website.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing about your website. Who's next?

9:01 AM  
Blogger Freya said...

I agree with Daniel, and I think you both bring up a good point. When looking at new tools or services, we should always keep our own needs in mind. A tool may be fantastic, but not right for your library, because of your budget or varying user needs. Network security and online patron privacy are also increasingly important factors to consider.

9:24 AM  

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