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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The people of Des Plaines have spoken!

31 patrons responded to our Web Site survey. Not huge numbers but the results are very useful. I found patterns in what you like and what you find frustrating and that will help me make decisions down the road. I'm seizing this opportunity to list some of your comments here and, when necessary, respond to them. Feel free to add more comments of your own.

1) A anonymous patron left a comment on PlainTalk a few days ago concerning patron privacy. As a librarian, it makes me cringe to think of someone commenting on what I borrow from the library. First, please be assured that our automated system deletes the record of what you borrowed once you have returned the items. Secondly, state law and library policy state that information about items you currently have checked out is considered confidential, to be used only for internal operations such as collecting overdue fines. Within our employee Policy Manual, it clearly states that "We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom..." and "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed..." etc. All library employees learn about these policies as part of the orientation process.

To the patron who left this comment: I apologize on behalf of the Library and have forwarded your comment to our Library Director. To all our patrons: if you ever experience the feeling that your privacy is being violated by an employee or another patron of DPPL, please seek assistance from our Administrative staff.

2) Several of you mentioned the frustration of not being able to log into the Catalog/your account and STAY logged in. We hear you. You can sign on at the top of the Catalog home page and place several holds without entering your card repeatedly (if you haven't tried that, give it a whirl next time you're browsing for fun new books and movies). Beyond that, improved log-in functionality is one of my top priorities in our search for a new system. My other top criteria, based on what I've heard from you, follow.
  • If our new system has added features, like the ability to review books, rate them, create lists of what you've read and save them - great. However, those features cannot require a separate log-in. For those of you who experimented with WorldCat Local when we tested it, you know what I mean. Your usual DPPL Catalog log-in did not authenticate you on that site, so you had to constantly move back and forth between the two. No one has time for that and I'll battle long and hard before I buy a system that can't get it right.

  • I'd love to see a "shopping cart" type of feature in the Catalog. Pick out as many items as you'd like, add them to your cart, then place one hold at the end covering all the items. Based on your comments, I think you'd like that, too.

  • How about a menu of links to help you refine your search? You type "harry potter," and a list pops up: "book," "DVD," "sound recording" - you make your choice and get more precise results.

  • Above all: improved search relevance. Many of you wrote, "Bad search engine!" or "I type in an author or title and my results make no sense." I can tell from our survey results that most of you prefer to do your searching from home. Next time you're in the Library, if you have 10 extra minutes, stop by one of the public service desks and ask for some tips on how to get better results in the Catalog. You'll be grateful for it and you'll get a little librarian "insider knowledge." We have to search the Catalog all day and even took graduate school classes in searching, so we know the quirks and pitfalls.
3) To the patron who thought we should leave movies to folks like IMDB: On a personal level, I'm with you. I don't own a television and I only see a couple of movies every year. Nevertheless, if we decided to only offer books and gave up on movies, there'd be a mighty revolt here in town. Movies account for 50% of our annual circulation. I see it as a community service - we save you money on the costly hobby of watching movies and TV series.

4) To the patron who said "It doesn't tell you where the books are located." I'm not sure if you mean the Dewey decimal call number or the library, since we share our Catalog with 24 other libraries. My guess? You mean that in your initial list of results, you don't see a call number. Drives us crazy, too, and add that to the list of criteria for our new system!

5) To the patron who checks online, finds an available item but gets here and the item is gone: Save yourself the hassle. If you need the item in a hurry, call us first (847-827-5551 - you can speed things up by knowing on which floor the item should be). Someone can walk to the shelf, make sure the item is there and hold it for you. If you have a day or two: click the blue "Place Hold" button, put a hold on the item and we will contact you when it's ready for you to pick it up. We hate a wasted trip as much as you do, so let us do the work.

6) To the patron who wasn't crazy about the phrase "Pre-overdue notice": We discovered that we can indeed change that wording and have requested something new from our computer consortium. Watch for the change and I hope you find it more to your liking.

7) To those who want more book reviews, movie reviews, the ability to create lists, email or text information to yourself or others, improved hold queue information - we hope all of those things and more will be coming soon. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I represent DPPL on a committee that is searching for a new Catalog for our entire consortium. It isn't easy, because every product I've seen has some excellent qualities and some deficiencies. Thanks to your input, I have a much clearer understanding of how you use the Catalog and how you'd prefer to use it. I promise you that your preferences will be first and foremost in my part of the decision-making process. In the meantime, when you're confused or stymied by the Catalog or anything on our Web site, talk to someone here at the Library or feel free to email me: Karen McBride,

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