Library trumpets new online catalog

The term “game changer” could well be overused these days, but that’s exactly what’s happening right now as a new look to the Greenwich Library catalog is in place.

The dusty, traditional card catalog of little manila cards in a drawer has long since gone the way of the dodo, but even the electronic catalog that replaced it is now being phased out. What is now being used at Greenwich Library is something called BiblioCommons, a new online catalog that not only shows off the entire library collection but makes it possible to place holds, get renewals and find new books and other media tailored to your interests, all from the comfort of your home computer or the convenience of your smartphone by visting Greenwichlibrary.org.

“What BiblioCommons does is use software that interprets our data to make things more findable,” said Catherine Tynes, the library’s senior network specialist. “It allows for a different type of search with more filtering and more ways to share information and more ways to discover and explore.”

Ms. Tynes called the key word search in the software “really robust” because it allows patrons to find what they’re looking for more quickly and easily. By adding in more specific searching ability, unrelated items that happen to be similar can be filtered out and people can look at specific lists for searches like new arrivals or the New York Times best seller list. A patron may then place a hold on the material, then go to the library to pick it up.

The new searches also allow for suggestions to be made by the software of similar material that could lead to new discoveries by the user. The user may also build lists of favorite books or movies and view other lists to find material they might be interested in. Those lists don’t necessarily have to be public, though, and there are privacy settings in place so users will share only what they want to share.

“This is a better version of what you see in our traditional catalog,” Ms. Tynes said. “I can check what items I’ve checked out and when they’re due. And now we can check out digital items, too. This is something we just added that we couldn’t do before. You can check out an item through our Overdrive system [Greenwich Library’s checkout for e-books and digital audiobook downloads] and that interacts with BiblioCommons. It used to be two separate catalogs, but now they’re linked together and you can search and check it out through the one site.”

Greenwich Library Director Barbara Ormerod-Glynn was quick to compare it to the most famous search engine.

“It reminds me of Google,” Ms. Ormerod-Glynn said. “When you first started to work with Google and do your searches, it would take you places that you hadn’t started out wanting to go to. You can use the catalog for a simple search for an author or a title, but once you start to explore you can look to the right and see that the title you were looking for is on all these lists and you can view those lists and find other titles you might like to read. You can lose yourself in the catalog.”

It’s not just an improvement in the search ability that marks this upgrade. It’s also a sleeker redesign similar to that of popular sites like Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. This also allows for reader reviews to be posted, just as on those sites, so if people aren’t sure about a book, they can see the reviews of other Greenwich residents who read it. Also, patrons may sign up for notifications so that they can hear about the latest books or other materials in their interest areas as they come into the library.

Ms. Ormerod-Glynn called BiblioCommons “our virtual branch,” noting that almost 2,000 people come to the main library as well as the Cos Cob and Byram branches every day but more than double that log on to the website each day.

“People who might not have the time to come in and browse now have far greater chance of being able to browse and find what they want,” Ms. Ormerod-Glynn said. “I think it enhances the experience anyone has once they fully explore it.”

People may use the software from all terminals in the library but also from home. Ms. Tynes said it’s perfect for home use because people may stay signed in there. Close to four months ago, Greenwich Library began issuing personal identification numbers, or PINs, to patrons. Those will be needed to create the account, but if a person doesn’t have a PIN, there are instructions on the site for how to get one and how to create a user account.

While BiblioCommons has been successful in other parts of the country, Greenwich Library is the first library in Connecticut to use it. It launched earlier this month after two years of preparation and practice, and so far library officials are thrilled by the results. Kate Petrov, public relations director for Greenwich Library, told the Post that there had been close to 3,000 registered users after the first two weeks and no major bugs have been reported yet.

Greenwich Library is striving to make the switch to BiblioCommons as smooth a transition as possible. The old catalog is still available for use and classes are being held Wednesdays at 2 to educate patrons about the change.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Ms. Petrov said. “There have been people with some specific questions and we’ve been able to help them. There’s Frequently Asked Questions available through the software and we’re providing one-on-one help, too. We’re holding weekly ‘Get to Know Your Catalog’ sessions, and patrons are coming in for an in-depth one-hour tour of it.”

Ms. Petrov and her staff have also created multicolored bookmarks with easy-to-follow instructions to educate patrons. Those bookmarks canbe found all over the library.

The software is expected to continue to evolve, as will Greenwich Library’s catalog, and right now Ms. Ormerod-Glynn said they couldn’t be happier, because they’re seeing it engage their patrons as readers and bringing them together in an online community.

“I think this launches us and puts us in the forefront of 21st-century libraries,” Ms. Ormerod-Glynn said.

 

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