ReadersFirst has advocated for a better experience for library users in accessing all of a library’s offerings, including physical materials, eBooks and digital audiobooks, databases, programs, and more. Queens Library, a member of ReadersFirst, has developed a Virtual Library System that takes into account ReadersFirst principles and provides users with as close to a one-stop experience as we’ve seen. In 2012, Queens Library received 5,000 Google tablets after Hurricane Sandy damaged much of the library’s service area. The library developed an interface and discovery layer for the tablets that allowed library customers to access library programs and services from home. After developing the interface for the tablets, Queens Library set out to develop an app that could be used by all library customers to access the library’s programs and services on their own devices.
Currently, the app provides a more seamless process for checking out digital content. Library customers log in and are able to search all of the library’s digital offerings at once. Checkout happens without changing platforms. If the user already has the appropriate app (Blio, OverDrive, Zinio, etc.) installed, that app can be opened directly from the Virtual Library to read the content. Although the library catalog itself is not the platform for digital checkouts at this time (catalog search is also available through the app, but checkout of digital content is not available through that interface), the single search and checkout for digital content is certainly a step forward and one for which Queens Library is to be commended.
Queens Library is working to further develop the Virtual Library System, and is engaged in conversations with vendors and NISO to develop mobile application intents and API specifications that could allow even more content to be distributed through a single platform.
For more information about the Queens Virtual Library System, including the feature set and timeline, visit http://virtuallibrary.queenslibrary.org/
Sara Stephenson, St. Mary's County Library