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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Library Online Catalog

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 8, 2009

Today's online library catalog has sure changed in the last decade.


For year, a library catalog consisted of a piece of furniture with drawers containing 3 x 5 cards with information about things in the library's collection.


Our catalog was closed and removed in 1993, and in those 15 years much has changed.


Beyond the traditional author, title, and subject access of the old card catalog, searching has expanded to include keyword searching.


Searches can be expanded to include locations, formats, and language.


The Best Sellers Lists appear in the online catalog and link directly to the item on the lost.


Movies, audio books, and music can be searched separately from print materials, or combine to search everything at once.


Children can use their own search tools.


People can establish and manage their own accounts, renew their own items, and place requests for anything in the system.


Added to the online catalog in recent year has been eBooks, electronic versions of their paperbound counterparts that can be downloaded into whatever machines you use.


Thousands of titles are available, are loaned for three weeks, and automatically disappear on their own with no overdue fines.


Try explaining that to a librarian in 1950 and see how they would have reacted!


The latest additions under "idownloads" are MP3 audiobooks and videos.


They can be used with the iPod, iPhone, iPod shuffle, and virtually any MP3 player.


Each selection online has a small graphic and description like the dust jacket of a paper book, and the blurb in the front of the book.


There is also a link to the "Ohio eBook Project" with more electronic titles.


The catalog also contains a link to the "iResources" which contains Ohio's "Know it Now," and "Homework Now," both online help for reference and homework.


"Learning Express" provides interactive online practice tests for anyone to use for practice.


Finally, the "Ohio Web Library" connects to thousands of online publications available through your library card in an Ohio Library.


Library catalogs existed for over 200 years in a variety of paper formats, while online systems are barely 20 years old and changing daily.


Paper and electronic formats are intermixed and accessed by the same tools.


When our library opened in 1902, Librarian Ellen Summers Wilson pounded out cards on her new typewriter in preparation for opening day.


I wonder if she had any vision of what the world of libraries would be like a century later.


Go to and see.