As I mentioned earlier, I just got added to the Ann Arbor District Library’s technology advisory board. That means for me a chance to meet with a few patrons and staff and board members once in a while to talk about major new efforts, plus an online forum to talk to the same people between meetings. I went to my first meeting tonight.
The old library catalog is a DRA product running on OpenVMS on DEC Alpha hardware, with a Frontier front end for doing events and notices and reading lists and locations and hours and other library information stuff. The new catalog system will be Innovative Interfaces, and a Drupal events and notices system. That’s approximately a 5-10 year leap into the future right there.
There’s a plan to integrate library staff and patron book recommendations and discussion right into the catalog interface. The idea is that you’ll be reading along in a library blog about books recommended in a certain area (patchwork knitting, Middle Eastern cookery, or travel books about Vermont) and be able to click straight through to put a recommended book on reserve. Blogs will have RSS feeds, and there’s plans to have RSS feeds out of the catalog.
The site design is much cleaner than the old one, with much more consistent and predictable navigation. There are about 50 main pages in the current layout arranged on seven menus. Pages will have a spot on them for featured library programs and services that rotate (in sort of a rotating advertisement format) so that you can learn about what’s new and what’s going on at a branch.
No changes to the MILE interface, though there will be a simpler inter-library loan request box if you don’t want to navigate through a dozen screens and want a librarian to do that for you.
Once you log in to your account, you won’t have to re-authenticate.
There’s a module to (optionally) save your reading history and to save any searches, and to have the library automatically mail you when new books come in that match a search, kind of like an iTunes smart playlist for books.
The whole thing is promised to be much faster, in part just by running modern operating systems on modern hardware.
The system won’t be down overnight for processing, and you’ll be able to post a hold or check the catalog at 2am if you’re up then.
The library will have a float in the 4th of July parade, and the new system goes live the day after that.
I’m pretty excited about the whole thing – we are serious library users and any way that makes it easier to find out about new materials and to talk to other library patrons about books in the collection that they like will be great. With 40000+ active patrons and 70%+ of them email users, this could be quickly a great site for not just checking out books that you found elsewhere but also learning about what’s interesting to read.