Saturday, May 31, 2008

BookLetters and Library 2.0

Life is playing its evil little tricks on me…my body somehow knows my brain is back in school and it woke me up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 (on a Saturday morning!) to force me to be productive. So here I am, after a half hour long search for an open Dunkin’ Donuts, making the best of this quiet time.
Thinking back over the past few weeks at work and wondering what I could write about, two things have me really excited, and they kind of go hand in hand. Every year we run a program called “Hot Summer Reads”. I’m sure you are all familiar with this type of series. Every year the staff picks about fifteen new titles to add to the previous year’s selections. This is always very popular; being a seaside community our patrons have plenty of opportunities for beach reading. But they’re not all fluff books, in fact, some are a little on the avant garde side. I look at it as a personal challenge and try to stretch my boundaries a little each year. The display went up yesterday and I noticed quite a few patrons pulling the books off the shelves. I’m clearly not the only one who looks forward to this.
So what does this have to do with technology? A few weeks ago the director bought an online subscription to BookLetters. If you’re not familiar with this service and you work in a library that emphasizes readers advisory you should check it out. I’ll try not to sound like an advertisement here, but this is a loaded application. One of the best features is the availability of newsletters. Basically, you enter the ISBN numbers of the books you want to highlight and canned reviews are then displayed in newsletter form. You can also add your own reviews and link the selections to your catalog. Each newsletter can be set up as either an RSS feed or an email push.
The definition of Web 2.0 is hard for some people to grasp. I think it is best described as interactive and reciprocal. When you turn on your computer personalized information comes to you. Every morning when I load my Morning Coffee (which I don’t have to drive around for no matter what time of day or night it is!), I get everything I want – weather at my favorite camping locations, news feeds, my Facebook updates, new book alerts, new postings on my favorite blogs, etc. All of this information is pushed out to me now. And how does this relate to Library 2.0? We can now push our news and services out to our patrons.
Yesterday the Hot Summer Reads were set up on a display and a BookLetters newsletter was posted with descriptions of each new book added to this summer’s list. It is now possible for our patrons to open their email, see the newsletter, read the reviews, and choose their books, place holds - suspending some to ensure a continuous stream of books for the whole summer, all from their computers. What’s easier than that?

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