By Igor Studenkov | Bugle Staff
Morton Grove Public Library patrons will soon be able to find everything the library offers in one click.
During the Nov. 12 Morton Grove Library Board of Trustees meeting, Helga Scherer, the library’s Head of Technology Services, previewed the new catalog interface. It is designed to let the patrons search the library catalog itself, as well as all of the library subscription services, including databases, ebooks and music and video downloads. Currently, all of those services have their own, separate search engines.
Library Director Debra Stombres says that the staff ultimately hopes to be able to make the library catalog show up on Google and other search engines. This is a long-term project that would take a few more years, but she hoped that, once its in place, it would give area residents a better idea of what the library offers.
The new catalog interface is currently only accessible to library staff, who have been field-testing it for the past few weeks. Scherer told the board that they were aiming for a more “contemporary” design, something that’s more similar to Amazon.com and other shopping sites.
The current interface searches all of the physical books, CDs and DVDs by default, either by title, author name or subject matter. Patrons can further refine the search by clicking on the “limit search” tab. The new interface includes a pulldown menu to the left of the search box, where patrons can either choose to search everything or select one of the narrower categories.
More significantly, the new interface wouldn’t limit the search to physical materials. It automatically searches all of the online databases available to patrons through the library. It also automatically includes search results from ebook borrowing services, as well as from Hoopla – the online service that allows patrons to download or stream movies, music, audiobooks and comic books.
The patrons won’t have to go to the services to get the digital materials – they would be able to download them directly from the interface.
Patrons would also have an option to browse materials by topic using the links on the left side of the screen. Scherer said that this was meant to allow patrons to browse the library stacks without having to actually set foot in the building.
Another notable new feature is that, when patrons find a specific item, they will be able to use the permalink function to link to that item directly via email or social networks.
“We’re very excited about that,” said Scherer. “It really brings our patrons a number of things they’ve been asking for. And we want to get it out there.”
The patron’s ability to manage their library account has also been changed. They would have an ability to change their account PIN. Under the current interface, Scherer explained, patrons have to ask librarians to change it for them. The profile also alerts patrons when they have fines – something that Scherer demonstrated when she used her own profile as an example.
“I better check on something, because I have something overdue. [When that happens], you get that exclamation point,” she said, motioning to the right side of the screen.
Scherer told the Bugle that the interface will be available “toward the end of the year.”
During the meeting, Stombres said that, ultimately, the library hopes to bring the catalog within the reach of search engines. The biggest obstacle to it, she explained, is the underlying technology.
“Library cataloguing happened before the web,” said Stombres. “It’s not something the web crawlers can read.”
Scherer said that, once the catalog runs on something the search engines can read, when residents of Morton Grove and other nearby suburbs search for a topic, the library books and databases would show up with search results.
“It’s still a few years down the road, but I can’t wait for this to happen,” added Stombres.