Thanks for visiting. We aren't actively blogging here anymore. Please visit us on our new site.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Web Survey wrap-up coming tomorrow

I'm working on responding to many of your questions and comments. Watch for a new PlainTalk on Tuesday, 9/1/09, in which I'll try to summarize what you told us, and answer as many questions as possible. Thank you - your responses have been truly helpful.

Oh and by the way - yes, Laura, I did add the "My Account" button to the home page after your request. I like to think I know a lot about libraries and a fair amount about Web sites. However, in all my careful planning and research, it did not occur to me that many, many people visit the Web site just to check on the status of their account. That counts as a big "duh" on my part! Your suggestion was an excellent one and I was glad I could easily make it a reality. That's exactly why I created the Web site survey. I meet with vendors, see presentations, and hear a lot about what they think our library's patrons want. It's very important to me that I can respond to them with real patron comments, especially when our patrons have better ideas!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Comments on our Web Site Survey - yes, I care

While scanning the results of the online survey about our Web site, I found one signed, "Like you care." Well, to be perfectly honest, I do care. That's why I took the time to write the survey and put it on our home page.

Our Web site is enormous and connects to all kinds of related services: the library catalog, blogs, online databases, wikis and hundreds of other Web sites. It's a lot of work to maintain it, keep it fresh, keep it useful. I know what I like in a Web site and my co-workers at the library aren't shy about telling me their preferences. However, what matters ultimately is if the Web site and those related services are useful, efficient and satisfying to you, our patrons. I thought a survey would be one of the best ways to determine that, while also inquiring about what you want to see in the future.

For example: one question related to using Web sites on your mobile phone. Do I care about that? I sure do, because I want to make sure we're keeping up-to-date with technology and the word on the streets is that "the mobile Internet era is at hand." The word on the streets is also that most Web sites are a disaster when accessed via a mobile phone. I use the Web on my phone constantly, far more than I do on my laptop - but I'm not designing services for me, I'm designing them for you.

Our current Web site,, averages about 79,000 views per month. The blogs get over 2,000 hits a month. I know, without even looking, that the most used part of our Web site is that mystery known as the library catalog, the place where you search for books, movies and other items, place holds, review your account, etc. I've written about the catalog before, but this bears repeating. We purchase the library catalog from an outside vendor. We share this Catalog with 24 area libraries and it is managed by a consortial computer group. We have only a small amount of control over what the Catalog looks like and how it performs. Believe me when I say: we are well aware of the Catalog's shortcomings as a search tool. That's why I'm asking you what you think about it. I'm part of that consortium's new task force to find a better search tool, if one exists. It's not good enough for me to meet with that task force and express my opinions on what a better catalog would look like - I need to represent you, too.

I'm grateful to all of you who took a few minutes to share your thoughts and complaints with me. To those who wrote in with concerns that were outside of my realm (noise on the 4th floor, wording of overdue notices), I forwarded your comments to the appropriate parties. To those who wrote that your searches often yield bad results, that you'd like a new system that links up with your current account information (WorldCat currently does not do that), that you'd like to be able to review books online or find more/better reviews and so forth - thank you. Those comments will come with me to my consortial meetings as tangible evidence of a point I've been trying to make: our patrons here in Des Plaines are smart, savvy, creative users and deserving of the best Internet services we can provide.

There's still time to take the survey. When the survey is complete, I will respond here to some of the questions and comments in greater detail - because I care. Thanks again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When the book you want...

...wakes up in the City That Never Sleeps. The DVD you crave is in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo. The CD of your favorite record album from the 70s is deep in the heart of Texas. What can you do?

We know how popular our "Place Hold" system is here at DPPL. You search our Catalog to find items not only in Des Plaines but in dozens of other libraries in the surrounding suburbs. See something you like? Click "Place Hold," type in your library card number and password - et voilà as they say in Paris, your book or movie is sent to DPPL for you to pick up and enjoy.

What happens when that special object of desire is farther afield? What if it's in Fremont, California, rather than the Fremont Area library in Mundelein, or Park Ridge, New Jersey, rather than Illinois? Chances are, we can get it for you, through a nifty library service called Interlibrary Loan.

The easiest way to search for items beyond our immediate library consortium and order them through Interlibrary Loan is to use WorldCat. You can search WorldCat much like you do our Catalog: Keyword, Author, Title, etc. When your list of results appears, you'll easily see the items we have in Des Plaines, they are marked with: When you see an item of interest that is not held at DPPL, click the title to see all the details. Underneath the title, author and other pertinent information, you'll see the GET THIS ITEM options. (Ignore the one that says "Check the catalogs in your library" - that's what you're doing by checking WorldCat.)

If you're interested in seeing which libraries own the item, click on "Libraries worldwide that own item." The number that follows is the number of WorldCat libraries with this specific item. When you're ready to place a request, click on "Borrow this item from another library (Interlibrary Loan)."

Fill in the form that follows. It will be sent to our Interlibrary Loan department and they will order it for you. It may take a little longer than our local "Place Hold" service does, because WorldCat searches all across the country and even other countries. NOTE: the Direct Delivery option is not available at this time. The item will be sent here to DPPL for you to pick up, not to your home address.

It's that simple. To find WorldCat when this blog post fades away: from any page on our main Web site, hover over the "Reference" menu, choose "Research Databases A-Z" and scroll all the way to the bottom for WorldCat. My first library job was in the Interlibrary Loan department at a college library. The people doing Interlibrary Loan work love the thrill of the hunt for an unusual or rare item, and you'll reap the benefits.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Afraid your job application is at the bottom of the heap?

Make it King of the Mountain.

We have tons of great resources to help you assemble the perfect resumé, ace that interview and earn the job you deserve. Take advantage of:
  • Our newest online service, JobNow. Participate in sample interviews, get your resumé buffed up by experts in the field and search job listings. Get all the details.JobNow is free - anyone can use it on our public DPPL computers, or use it from home with your DPPL card.

  • Our Business/Careers Resource Center. Business news, career exploration, job hunting resources, resumé tips and much more, gathered into one convenient Web site. From here, you can also join our...

  • Business Twitter feed. Sign up to follow us on Twitter and you'll get a new job hunting tip every week (and nothing else - we won't spam you). You can also find these Twitter job tips in our Business/Careers Resource Center.

  • Join our free Job Seekers Group. Meets once a month, on the second Wednesday at 9:30 AM. Networking with others means sharing your talents and your opportunities. You might have a lead to help another job seeker, and in turn someone else might send just the right thing your way.
It seems like another friend or acquaintance of mine loses his/her job every few weeks. We know times are tough and job hunting can be depressing, frustrating, even scary. Let us help.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

BookChecker - now even better!

We've heard good feedback from you about our BookChecker service.

Don't know what BookChecker is? It's a little piece of Java script (that's Internet code for you non-geeky types) that lives in your browser's bookmarks or "favorites." Once you've saved the BookChecker there, any time you're on a Web site like Amazon or Barnes & Noble and see a book that looks good, go into your bookmarks, click the BookChecker link and you'll find out if we have that book here at DPPL. Pretty neat and can save you money and "buyer's remorse."

Now, as if that wasn't good enough, we've added a second BookChecker to the menu. This one will search all of our consortial libraries at the same time, including DPPL. We know how many of you like to use our system to Place Holds at other libraries, then get the items sent to DPPL for your use. So now BookChecker can help with that, too.

To distinguish between the two: one is called the DPPL BookChecker (checks just our library's holdings), the other is the CCS BookChecker (CCS is the name of our library consortium).

Want more details? Want to get BookChecker saved on your own computer? Visit the BookChecker page on our Web site. After you save the BookCheckers to your bookmarks, please read the additional instructions on the BookChecker page to avoid confusion.

Got questions? Contact me, the Web Services Librarian!
Thanks to Tech Services Librarian John Lavalie for suggestions and help with making BookChecker an even better service.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yes - your opinion really does count

For the last few months, you probably noticed a change on our home page: the search box in the top right hand corner was for an online service called WorldCat Local, instead of our usual library catalog (called "iBistro," if you're curious). You may have also noticed that last week, the search box was switched back to the old one.

Des Plaines was one of several libraries in Illinois beta testing this new service, WorldCat Local. We're grateful to you, our patrons, for your patience and mostly for your great feedback about this product. OCLC, the company behind WorldCat Local, told us our library had the most usage amongst all the participating libraries. Not surprising to me in the least, because in my conversations and transactions with patrons, I can tell we have a community of savvy searchers and engaged library users.

We learned a lot from your feedback and so did the OCLC WorldCat Local team. This is important because our library is currently part of a consortial task force searching for a new and very, very improved catalog. So now we know not only what you liked and disliked about WorldCat Local, but also your general comments about searching, placing holds, narrowing searches and "social" features like reviews and tagging. Believe me, we have taken note of your suggestions and concerns and will use them in our decision-making process.

If you really liked WorldCat Local, or didn't get a chance to try it, there is still time. Just go to: and try some searches. WorldCat Local is connected to our current catalog, so you can even place holds in it and get the items reserved for you, just like you do in iBistro. WorldCat Local will be available for approximately 8 more weeks. There may be opportunities for you to "test drive" other catalogs as well - we'll keep you in the loop.

Thank you so much for helping us with this very worthwhile project. I want to particularly thank the nine community members who gave us several hours of in-depth product testing - your input was incredibly valuable and useful to me.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stretching out summer

I rarely watch television (I don't own one, so I can only indulge when I mooch time on someone else's TV), but last week I caught a few episodes of David Letterman's show. In each of his opening monologues, he groaned about summer flying by too quickly, so I guess even millionaire celebrities struggle with the sensation that time is slipping away from them.

Now, if you're one of those scientific, stick-to-the-calendar types, you know that summer is still very much with us, as Fall will not begin in the Northern hemisphere until September 22, 2009. Weather-wise, we're still waiting on summer, as we've had only a handful of days when the temperature reached "scorching" or even "sultry." I suspect we're due for an unusually sunny and warm September and October, which should help us hang on to our sense of summertime. Nevertheless, school starts SOON, the high season for vacations is happening right now, and like me, you might be feeling like you didn't do anything outside the box this season. Here are a few local suggestions to get you moving and enjoying your summer before it's too late - feel free to add your own in the Comments section.
  • Check out the Des Plaines' History Center's "Gross, Creepy or Cool" exhibit. It features a selection of so-called "oddities" from the Center's collection - you can even vote on which items are grossest, creepiest and coolest. (I don't even have to see the "hair wreath" to know it gross, creepy AND cool, in a real Goth kinda way.)

  • Interested in something more highbrow? The Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College is hosting a retrospective on painter Joseph Meert, known for his WPA-era murals and credited with saving the life of Jackson Pollock.

  • Start warming up now for the Des Plaines Idol competition: audition materials are due August 28, with the competition held at the lovely Prairie Lakes Theatre on September 12. The contest is open only to singers between 6-18 years old - I guess The Singing Librarians are not eligible!

  • Whoa - here comes Augustfest at St. Zachary's! Local food, bingo, carnival rides and live music, and admission is just a few dollars ($2-3, depending on date/time).

  • Check out the August deals at local park facilities like the Golf Center, Mystic Waters, Lake Park and Mt. View - a deal every day! (Link opens up a PDF file - takes a few seconds to load)
What else? Come on, I know you've got some suggestions. Share them!