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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 Reference Room Today

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 19, 2017

Collecting reference books for the library system is something that has changed dramatically over the past few years.


First, these books are no longer traditional paperbound objects; most of the information now comes in online databases.


Secondly, the information is available to a much broader format allowing all of the library customers with accounts (library cards) to use it.


Finally, libraries are buying a service instead of an item and if not renewed, we have nothing-in-hand for our purchase.


It used to be that public libraries had a collection, and even a separate room full of sets of books with specific information to answer questions.


90 percent of that collection has been replaced with online systems and databases that contain the same information except that the data is updated regularly.


This month is the decision-making time for libraries as most of these products are purchased/renewed on an annual basis.


Our library system acquired our first online service in 1995 if memory serves me, although a few items were acquired prior to that on some sort of disc or tape drive.


Today, I counted some nearly 100 such products that are available to library users with millions and millions of “pages” of data and information.


Each fall, we look and compare new products on-the-library-marketplace for possible acquisition for the public.


The big advantage is that the new “Reference Room” that was housed at our Main Library facility is now available to all of our locations and to people’s homes and offices and devices wherever they are located.


A series of books that used to contain 212 volumes has been replaced with a database that contains biographies, contemporary authors, and various literary resources.


Those volumes of stained and greasy volumes of auto repair manuals are now in the Auto Repair Database that produces single sheets of paper with the specific topic.


Current magazines appear on your device in a subscription through Flipster, with the next issue awaiting your request.


Rosetta Stone allows you to take foreign language courses online through the library.


Legal materials are found on Westlaw, or the Legal Forms database.


An endless supply of movies, TV shows, and eBooks flow out of Hoopla for library users.


Children’s books are part of Tumble Books Online along with games and puzzles specifically selected for young people.


Public Libraries still have books, and almost three-quarters of a million of them are checked out to Jefferson County residents every year.


Some people love books and like the “feel” of the traditional books, while others love the flexibility of an eBook and the fact that they return themselves to the library.


Some people like both formats, some like one or another.


You know that with an eBook, you can increase the size of the font and make a Large Print book out of a regular-sized book.


So what new databases will you see in 2018 through your library system? 


That’s another article!