Ottawa Public Library – Some Thoughts of a Non-Librarian

Here's another one of those weird follow-the-leader stories where one thing leads to another which leads to another which brings it all back home.  Or something like that. 

I recently had an old college friend find me on Facebook.  I knew he'd graduated as a computer engineer from U of R and had gone to Ottawa but had lost touch with him since then. (More irony – he was from a small town in southeast Saskatchewan so of course, when I went out there to do work with the library, it turns out that he'd taught the local library board chair's kids to play the piano!)  Anyhow, his Facebook profile confirmed what I'd heard about him and added a few other details I didn't know (recently married, no kids, some current pics.)

He had a link to his own blog so I clicked through to that to get a bit more background on what he's been up to lately and saw that he'd done an entry about adapting a Greasemonkey script, originally developed for the Seattle Public Library, to link Amazon pages with the Ottawa Public Library's OPAC.

He also wrote a bit about how he uses the Ottawa Public Library in general which I found very interesting.
Frequently, in libraryland I think we tend to think like librarians (duh!) when we assess what patrons want.  So reading the thoughts of a very intelligent computer engineer on how he uses and views the library provided perhaps a different view than the one I normally get when I think of these questions. 

Another related topic I hear sometimes is “Can/should the library be all things to all people?”  The easy answer is “no” simply because that is impossible – you can't serve everybody in your community as fully and completely as you would like simply because you don't have the time and budget and other resources needed. But as one of the few venues in society that serves all types of people at all levels,  I also wonder how close can we get?  And don't we have an obligation to try? 

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    This sounds vaguely similar to what they did at Kingston Public Library. They did a mashup between Amazon and the request for purchase page, so that patrons who want to suggest a title for the library to purchase just have to type in the title, and then it links to the info in Amazon, meaning that the library gets all the bibliographic info without the patron having to look it all up. It helps, too, when the patron can see the cover art and know that they are requesting the right book. I don't know that your friend's script works quite in that way – sounds more like it's on an individual level where it just provides him with the Amazon info when he searches the catalogue. But when so many people naturally go to Amazon first, I don't know why libraries aren't using it more, for other things.
    Similarly, I think London PL has a mashup with the NoveList database. They don't write their own summaries or reviews, but you can get them just by clicking on the coverart of the books in the catalogue. Took me awhile to realize that what I was seeing was, in fact, generated by NoveList.
    If people who are good with computers can improve their libraries' systems, why on earth are more libraries not doing it themselves?
    Thanks for point out this neat idea.

    Posted 06 Jan 2009 at 9:26 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I seriously doubt that libraries will ever catch up to the Amazons/Googles/Wikipedias of the world. So the next best solution is mash-ups where we can “partner” with these sites instead.

    Posted 15 Feb 2009 at 8:25 am

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