entering the biblioblogosphere…

January 20, 2011

My Kobo arrived in the mail this week (…I bought a refurbished one from Future Shop at half the price of a new one), and I successfully borrowed my first ebook from the Hamilton Public Library! Even for me, this process was not too difficult to figure out. I had to install Adobe Digital Editions on my computer and use this program to transfer the downloaded book to the Kobo.

The book I borrowed is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. There was a waiting list to borrow one of the print copies in HPL’s collection. I was happy to avoid the wait for the book, and amazed that I could have a digital copy in my hands within minutes. HPL has branch locations spread over a huge distance – from Freelton (halfway to Guelph) to Stoney Creek on the other side of Hamilton. If a copy of a book I want is on the shelf in Stoney Creek, I can spend ½ an hour driving (one way!) to pick it up, or wait a week for it to be transferred to Dundas. So I guess I am starting to see the convenience and appeal of the ebook format.

Up until this point, I have used HPL’s website and OPAC to search for books and make requests, and occasionally to update my account. Mostly, however, I go to my local branch to browse, ask questions, take out books and pick up holds. It is possible, however, that my relationship with the library is about to change. If I can get the material I want electronically, I don’t need to inconvenience myself with a trip to the library. As more and more people start using ebooks, I’m guessing they won’t be making as many trips to the library as well. At this point, I can really see that a well-functioning, interactive library website and OPAC (that is, Library 2.0 functionality) will be hugely important to any library. If people are interacting with the library remotely, they need to be able to communicate (like asking questions and having them answered). If they are looking for something, they should be able to find it easily.

Maness, writing in 2006, discussed how websites like Amazon.com were much more dynamic and interactive than the average public library OPAC. Only last year (2010!), Hamilton Public Library updated its website and OPAC to make them more interactive. I must admit, I really like the changes. Searching the OPAC is now, actually, a lot like searching Amazon. There are pictures of the book covers, comments, tags and ratings. The website includes subject guides to online resources, like a “food and cooking” subject guide which links to various online cooking magazine, sites, organizations, maps, etc. I imagine Library 2.0 functions will only grow in importance, in part as libraries try to keep up with emerging technological trends (like social networking), and as they continue to try to provide the services that they are intended to provide (like access to information) in ways which are useful to their patrons. It seems to me that it will be an ongoing challenge to keep increasingly complex websites and OPACs updated and functioning in the Library 2.0 world.

One comment

  1. Hi Sara, I recently bought an e-reader as well (a Sony) and have entered the world of ebooks. Despite my initial skepticism towards them, I now think that ebooks are amazing. They’re easy to get, you don’t even have to leave the house to go to the library and they’re still free!
    I agree that OPAC’s must be interactive and well functioning. It seems as though everyone received an ereader for Christmas this year, because LPL (where I work) has been swarmed with questions about them, and I think that a few improvements to the webpage may help people a lot! I also agree that the Amazon approach is beneficial and contributes to usability of the site.

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