The New York Public Library has partnered with Toronto-based software company Bibliocommons to completely transform its current online catalog, making it easier to discover the Library's vast collections while also giving users the power to create reading lists, rate the latest books, and organize groups.
The new user-friendly NYPL catalog will debut in September, but starting on June 20, a test version can be accessed and evaluated by the public (at nypl.bibliocommons.com). Features will include:
- Greatly improved search engine performance
- Personal "shelves" of books and reading lists for users
- The ability to contribute reviews, tags and ratings
- Shared content with the 120 libraries using Bibliocommons (so, for example, a user can read a review of a book from someone in Ottawa or Boston)
In addition, Bibliocommons is developing brand new content specifically for NYPL that will make the interface completely unique in the digital marketplace and an example and template for other libraries across the country and the world. New features in development include:
- The power to build self-organizing groups around the collections
- The opportunity to instantly volunteer online; for example, users might be asked to transcribe a part of a digitized book
- Enhanced access to Special Collections material
"The collaboration with Bibliocommons gives The New York Public Library the tools to make further in-roads into the social media realm, and increase its use of interactive elements and digital technology," said NYPL President Paul LeClerc. "We are excited to offer these advancements to our users while also providing a framework for the future to our fellow libraries across the country."
All new features will be optional for users, who will still be able to access the current catalog.
"We are very excited about our partnership with Bibliocommons, which we believe will greatly improve the core online services our users want and need," said Ann Thornton, Acting Andrew W. Mellon Director of The New York Public Libraries. "The experience will be much more interactive, giving patrons the ability to connect with one another, share their favorite books, rate books and more. We recognize the incomparable experience of actually being in one of our physical locations and interacting with neighbors and fellow information-seekers and believe that this is a big step toward replicating that in a digital space. The interface is a critical tool in strengthening communities and advancing knowledge, which are two cornerstones of The New York Public Library's mission."
The reexamined Web catalog is the biggest piece the Library has implemented so far in its overall strategy, mapped out last year. One key goal is to empower patrons to interact with one another. The current catalog became a critical component to evaluate because it is NYPL's most heavily used web property, with 12.2 million visits per year from 2.9 million different users.
The Library carefully examined its options, and selected Bibliocommons, which it deemed the most efficient, fully-featured, cost-effective and user-friendly choice. The company – an 18-person firm – hosts online catalog interfaces for over 40 North American library systems, including Boston, Seattle, Cleveland and now The New York Public Library, which has separately invested in the company to help accelerate the development of additional features central to the Library's long-term digital strategy.
"After crafting a digital strategy last summer, we were thrilled to find Bibliocommons," said Micah May, the Library's Director of Strategy. "Not only does it offer best in class core catalog functionality, it also provides the social platform we have been looking for. It allows us to offer our users opportunities to connect and collaborate around our collections in ways they have never before experienced in a library setting. I believe our investment in Bibliocommons is the single most important thing the Library has done to advance our digital strategy and define a new broader role for libraries online. It is the first step toward putting libraries at the center of how people find, manage, discuss, and engage with media content of all kinds."
About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers – housed, respectively, in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library – and 90 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 65 million items, including materials for the visually impaired. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 25 million users internationally, who access collections and services through the NYPL website, www.nypl.org