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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Remember browsing?


Long ago, you couldn't see what the library had by looking at the catalog on the Web. You had to go to the library and look at the materials. And what happened when you went to look for something at the library was that you saw an intriguing title on your way to what you were looking for, and then you let yourself get a little bit sidetracked, and you looked over some other books nearby, and then you thought of something else you heard about or thought about or read about or saw on television or just realized you were interested in, and you went off to look that up, and maybe you passed the New Book display on the way and found something by your favorite author that you didn't even know was out yet.

This was known as browsing. Well, it IS known as browsing, but it doesn't happen as much any more, because the availability of the online catalog means that you can look up exactly what you're thinking of at the time, put it on hold, go pick it up ... and never experience the serendipity that often came - comes - with browsing. The word "browsing" is probably still used more than the word "dowsing" ... but perhaps not by much.

But don't despair. Allen County Public Library has recently launched a Web feature that casts browsing in a whole new light. Sean Robinson, head of IT Services at ACPL, created a mashup of book covers and information for the books cataloged at ACPL yesterday.

This is the new browsing: http://blog.acpl.lib.in.us/amzamash/book_wall.php

When you click on the cover of a book, you get information about it - on a little graphic of an old-fashioned library catalog card (the idea for which Sean got from John Blyberg, of http://www.blyberg.net/).

Edit: I just wanted to point out there is a weakness in my phrasing that makes it unclear that the bookwall is updated automatically - so that every day that items are cataloged, the bookwall changes to reflect the most recent materials.

18 Comments:

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Heather said...

Well, I found two titles that I had no idea that I wanted to read. Will this be updated regularly? I love it!
Thanks Sean, Ian and the DC!

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger Ian said...

It's everything that was cataloged yesterday - yesterday being an ever-advancing concept. (So tomorrow, it will be everything that was cataloged today.)

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried the link, Ian, but it timed out so maybe I'll try again later. sounds like fun! Mom

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Ian--tried it again, and it's great! I think I'll send the link to OUR library and tell them they ought to talk to your technical person! Mom

 
At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How awesome to be able to click on the cover, read the review, and then click on the catalog link and put it on hold right then and there! thanks for sharing this cool new addition
Dianna

 
At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific idea(!), but I wonder if Amazon minds having so many images hot-linked from their servers when they get nothing in return?

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you make it so that we don't have to check EVERY day? Maybe choose a day from a week?

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Ian said...

I'm sure that Amazon will let us know if they don't like what we're doing. ;-)

As far as the idea of missing stuff if you don't check every day, I'm not sure if we can do anything about that, but I'll suggest the idea to Sean. It may be that he can make it a bit more customizable ... but no promises!

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Ian said...

Well, we're getting crazy busy with the move, so don't look for it anytime soon, but Sean says that it's probably possible to cover a week at a time instead of just a day. (His main intent initially was just to give a kind of snapshot of what we have coming in on a daily basis.) He'll probably get to it eventually!

 
At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just FYI to copyright-conscious people: We did get permission to use the Amazon book covers.

And another idea: Perhaps archive the daily book walls? That way you could say, "I thought I saw a while ago a book about x..." and flip back through them. This would be a major enhancement over current temporary book displays, which disappear and also don't include items checked out by other patrons. - Nancy

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Kerry said...

I took a look at your book wall and, on a lark, gave my library lookup button (from John Udell) a try and it worked! Your book wall can facilitate browsing not only in your catalog, but also in other local catalogs. Great tool!

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

I love the bookwall! What a great way to browse since I don't have time to do that in person anymore!
My only question is this: How do I get back to the webpage from the wall? I can get back to the Library Elf link, but not the webpage.
Thanks!

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Ian said...

You can get back to the ACPL web page by clicking on one of the book covers, then clicking the "Look this up in our catalog" link, and then clicking the ACPL logo in the upper left part of the page.

It's sort of a lot of clicks to get back; it's possible Sean could add a link at the top/bottom of the bookwall page as a navigation aid.

--Ian

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger Tracy said...

As a public librarian I love this idea of browsing online. What a great idea and working so well. I was involved in planning an online service to outline residents and this would make it more iteresting and the ability to view the cover makes a huge difference.

 
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At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Indian Dressing said...

Allen County Public Library has recently launched a Web feature that casts browsing in a whole new light.

 
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