The Liverpool Public Library has a new look, and it’s not just on the outside.
In addition to the renovations being done to the roof and parking garage, the library’s web site has also been completely revamped.
“This [site] addresses a lot of the problems that needed to be solved [from the old web site],” said Jean Polly, assistant director at LPL and head of their IT department. “It’s a much more robust system.”
The web site has been in the works ever since the library’s last web site was constructed several years ago.
“Rick [Fensterer, of the IT department] put up our last web site in October of 2001,” Polly said. “The planning for the next version started right away.”
Fensterer said the last web site provided a base for the new site. “It’s like putting in a foundation before building a new house,” he said.
The new site includes a myriad of new features that will make navigating the site easy, even for the less-than-technologically-savvy. The site “avoids library-ese,” Polly said, changing terms such as the vague “Adult Services” to the more specific “Enjoy a Book.”
“It makes it easier for people on the site to find exactly what they’re looking for,” Polly said.
The web site works on a Content Management System model, allowing for continuous updates. For example, the calendar on the site’s home page refreshes itself constantly so that it is continuously showing up-to-date information. There are also RSS (internet-ese for “really simple syndication”) feeds featuring news, book reviews, blogs and other useful features.
“You’re no longer dealing with just building a page,” Polly said. “There’s a database behind it. It makes information very flexible — it can live in a lot of different places at one time.”
The new site also offers library patrons free access to a number of different features right from their computers, from full-text newspaper and magazine articles to journal databases.
One feature Polly is especially excited about is the access the site provides to BookLetters, a program for libraries that combines cut-and-paste technology, content and electronic distribution to allow patrons to learn about materials the library owns.
“BookLetters lets us create pages tied to catalogues,” Polly said.
BookLetters creates newsletters that can be delivered via e-mail to patrons’ homes or offices. Users have access to online book discussions, new titles and authors, professional book reviews and LPL staff recommendations. Patrons can check availability and even reserve the books right from the e-mails. If they choose, patrons can also opt for RSS feeds instead of e-mails.
Liverpool is the only library in the county that subscribes to this service.
“We’re just making this content available,” Polly said. “Now you can keep in touch without having to come in here. Our virtual branch is open 24/7.”
Indeed, the entire web site is designed for the convenience of Liverpool Central School District residents, offering them 24/7 access to things they otherwise would have had to make the trip to the library for. In addition to book reviews and hold requests, patrons can also register for programs and classes at the library through the site. They can check the calendar for library and community events, access information on Liverpool history, reserve a library computer for use onsite or take part in online polls.
And there are resources for all ages, from pre-readers — the recently unveiled BookPaws program — to senior citizens — the content on this page is shown in larger font.
If you’re interested in donating to the library, the site has a place for that. Patrons can access LPL’s Amazon wish list and purchase items for delivery to the library. They can also shop the library store, sale proceeds from which go right back into library programs.
More changes in store
The site, which was unveiled in late June, is already getting significant use. Polly urges Liverpool residents who haven’t already done so to check out the site and submit their comments to the library.
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback, ” she said. “We do react immediately when people tell us about ideas or problems they have. We’re constantly tweaking things.”
Polly and Fensterer hope to add even more interactive features to the site in the coming months.
But the biggest change will come in October, when, as Polly put it, “we’ll move your cheese big time.” At that time, Polaris, a local technology company, will give every library in the county a new catalogue system.
“It’s extremely cool,” Polly said. “You’ll be able to do more online than ever before once we get that technology. It will be a huge thing.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.