or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


New Massachusetts Library Directory

   January 17th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Massachusetts Libraries logoThe Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has just launched mass.gov/libraries, to go along with a new public awareness campaign for Massachusetts libraries.

Sometimes "top-down" efforts like this end up being a waste of time and resources, but I actually do think I will use this new website. For one thing, it is simple and clean, which makes it easy to see what information is available. I like that.

Also, it is very limited in scope: it is information about the public libraries in Massachusetts and the services those libraries offer. So even though their slogan is "There's something for everyone," they don't try to be "everything to everyone" - no subject listings, no web search boxes, etc.

The target of this website is Massachusetts residents, and the focus is to connect those people with their local library - or better yet, its online resources - and to maybe answer a few library questions along the way.

Here's what this site offers:

  • A directory of Massachusetts libraries, searchable by Town name or zip code
  • The contact information of the libraries, their hours, and whether or not wi-fi is available
  • A single login box for subscription databases funded by the state government
    (with one particularly neat feature being that when I logged in, the site knew I was logging in with a Chelmsford Library card, so it also automatically offered me a search of the Chelmsford catalog in addition to the subscription databases [though I didn't like they called it "Primary Search" instead of something more obvious and logical like "Library Catalog"])
  • A link to MassAnswers, our 24/7 online "chat with a librarian" service
  • Some basic general library-related information, contained in "Fast Facts" and "FAQ" sections. The Fast Facts were a lot of statistics, ie:
    • number of libraries (370), branches (106) and bookmobiles (4)
    • total holdings: 43.8 million books, magazines, videos, etc.
    • reference questions per week: 99,529

    Some examples from the FAQ are:

    • How can I get a library card?
    • Can I borrow from other libraries in Massachusetts?
    • How do I find library materials online?

They even included an article about why using library resources is better than Google for homework and student research.

I can see a lot of librarians using this, simply to find the contact information of other libraries, but I also like the single login box for database searching.

I also think patrons could easily use this website, too, but the key there is in the patrons finding it. This is the first year of a three-year marketing campaign, but aside from emails sent directly to librarians, I haven't seen anything.

awareness, campaign, libraries, library, ma, marketing, mass, massachusetts, mblc, public



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