Thing 10: The Virtual Library Branch

What's open 24/7 and offers lots of good stuff for just about everyone? If you answered, "the local 7-11," you're correct, but if you answered "the library," you'd also be right! Traditionally, people have thought of libraries strictly as physical buildings, but most libraries now have websites that essentially serve as virtual library branches offering a full array of services, collections, and information. And it's not just about the library website, but about the entire web presence created by the library.

According to an April 2006 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 73% of American adults are internet users. And the share of Americans who have broadband connections at home has now reached 42%. As libraries continue to evolve and adapt to a rapidly changing world, they are making an effort to meet users where they are, and these days that means having a strong presence on the web.

The Skokie Public Library's website is the main component of our virtual branch library and it's great! Besides the online catalog, which allows people to find materials and manage their library account from their own computer, the website offers a wealth of information and services for just about everyone. These include downloadable digital books, electronic research tools and reference services (check out the new IM reference service), recommendations and booklists for all age levels and all material formats, an events calendar, homework help and more!

Take some time to explore the website and discover what's available on it. Click on the various categories on the menus. Familiarize yourself with all that the website has to offer.

If you have time, take a look at this wiki with links to some of the best library websites out there. Take a look at the public library "hall of fame" in particular. Do you see any good ideas that we can add to our own library website?

Also, consider some of the other ways in which the library is making its presence felt on the web:

  1. One of the best aspects of the library website is the downloadable digital book collection. Anyone with a Skokie Public Library card can download ebooks and eaudiobooks to their personal computer and even transfer books onto their own mp3 player for listening on-the-go! The challenge for this task will be to download a book to your computer and try it out either on your computer or an mp3 player. If you don't have an mp3 player, check with the Readers services desk to see if there is one available to play with. Step-by-step guides to the downloadable book collection can be found by clicking here.
  2. Write a new blog post and share your thoughts on the library's website. What aspect of the website did you like the most? Do you have any ideas for new services we can provide through the virtual branch? What other ways can the library improve its web presence?

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