Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Access and Innovation’

Life as a Service Hub for the Digital Public Library of America

Posted on March 12th, 2014 by admin in Collections, Library Services, Strategic Plan, Technology

by Tom Blake

With millions upon millions of items to potentially digitize at the BPL, you would think we would have enough on our plates. But, in our role as a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Service Hub, we have taken on the digitization of collections across the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Any library, archives, museum, historical society, or other cultural heritage institution in the state is eligible for this service. We have already been engaged by over 150 different institutions seeking our help get their collections digitized and made available online.

Although it might seem strange or even imprudent to take on such a task in a day when resources can be stretched thin, we believe that extending our state-of-the-art digitization services beyond our walls significantly increases the value of our own collections.

06_01_002590.LARGEThe works of Lowell Mason are a perfect example. Boston Public Library’s music department holds significant materials by this turn of the century composer and teacher, and these materials are critical in understanding the history of public music education. The Lowell Mason Foundation, a small nonprofit organization based in Medfield, requested our services to have complementary items digitized. Once digitization is complete, these items will become unified, virtually, with the holdings of the BPL via Digital Commonwealth and the DPLA. As our materials are connected to these other resources, we will have created a more comprehensive online resource for researchers who otherwise would have had to travel to multiple locations. This ability to enable a high level of discoverability for small, local collections bolsters our position as a leader and an innovator for library services. This has been our reputation since our founding and a source of pride for Boston ever since.

Central Library Renovation: Tech Central

Posted on March 5th, 2014 by Gina Perille in Johnson Building Study, Major Projects, Technology
9sq_grid

The Johnson Building is arranged in a nine-square gird. Imagine Boylston Street as being at the bottom of this image, underneath the letters H – A – B.

Included in the renovation plans for the first floor of the Johnson Building is an updated and improved Tech Central area. Today, Tech Central is in and to the left as you enter the Central Library via Boylston Street.

Using the image at right as a guide to the first floor, Tech Central occupies the G area today. The current plan is to move it to the E section and a bit into the F section with additional computers and expanded work space for library staff to assist library users with their technology questions. A new set of restrooms is also planned for the F area on the first floor.

Another new feature planned is bar-style seating at the back window of the E section, which faces a small sunlight garden on the Blagden Street side of the Central Library.

 

Making E-books Easier

Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by Scot Colford in Library Services, Technology, Web Services

One of our most popular services is our e-book collection, but for many years, library users faced some unexpected complications managing the digital items they borrowed. For instance, if you wanted to search for something to read but didn’t mind whether it was in digital or physical format, you could search our online catalog. However, once you found an e-book you wanted, you would be directed to an entirely different site to check out and download the title. If you wanted to continue searching all formats, you’d have to leave the OverDrive site to switch back to the full catalog. Furthermore, you used to have to check two places if you wanted to see how your holds queues were progressing for digital and physical titles.

Considering our Compass principle of Access and Innovation, we’ve made it a priority to make the whole e-book process easier. Now, if you find a digital title in our online catalog, you can check its availability, place a hold on it, or check it out without being shuttled off to another site. Want to know what you’ve got checked out? It’s all there in the My BPL section. You can even manage all your pending holds from that same location.

e-book record

Of course, there are still some valid reasons you may want to use our OverDrive site. But even that experience has been streamlined. The new design of the OverDrive site released last month features smarter search results, lets you check out titles with fewer clicks, and even allows you to start reading immediately in your web browser. The design of the site adapts to the device you’re on as well, so you can do the same things on your smartphone as you can on your tablet or computer.

We hope you’re enjoying the improvements we’re making in our online services and we intend to keep removing as many barriers to digital access as we can.

Computer Systems Upgrade – Adjusting to the new ILS

Posted on December 31st, 2012 by David Leonard in Major Projects, Technology

Boston Public Library’s new Polaris system went fully live for staff on Thursday, December 13. As with any major upgrade, there were a few minor technical glitches that morning that were quickly addressed. Due to the size of our holdings, however, the online catalog took a full four days to get fully in synch with the new cleaned-up database, but was able to provide up to date availability information by December 17. Staff have spent the two weeks since correcting other minor issues with data and patron accounts, especially the holds fulfillment process. We are continuing to ask for patience and understanding from library users whose data wasn’t completely migrated and may experience a delay in fulfilling holds. All in all, the migration has been a technical success and staff are finding it easier and more efficient to use, once they become familiar with some new procedures involved. We are confident that all these kinks will be worked out in the January time-frame, which means we can move on to a larger set of enhancements to our systems, expected to deploy in the coming six months.

ILS Computer Systems Upgrade – Why so complicated?

Posted on December 28th, 2012 by David Leonard in Major Projects, Technology

The main functions of the integrated library system (ILS) are:

  • as a catalog
  • as a database
  • as library staff’s main tool for checking books and materials in and out
  • for acquiring, processing and storing items.

The ILS is also the brains of our technology system that allow patrons access to many other online services, too. When you sign up for a public session at one of the BPL’s computers or utilize the public printing systems, the print system has to check with our ILS to make sure you are in our system and are approved to use that computer or printer at that location. For example, only a children’s card can be used to access resources in a children’s space. The same goes for access to the WIFI system. Both our web-based public catalog, with its special search algorithm and relevancy rankings as well as its access to social network systems and our Museum Pass Reservation System need to do the same, as does use of OverDrive for downloadable books, just to name a few.

In all, Boston Public Library integrated and tested twenty-five separate systems and applications during the migration, a mixture of local and hosted systems. And, of course, we had to plan the migration so that we could stay open and offer as many services as possible for as long as possible. Some libraries close down for a migration of this size. If you were unfortunate enough to be one of the people who experienced a problem with access to systems or your record, or had a problem with your hold requests, we apologize. If you have let us know, we have probably either fixed or will fix the problem. For the vast majority of systems and users, the migration was largely invisible and successful. We are planning to continue making system improvements and adding other enhancements through at least June of 2013 as part of this overall systems migration project.