PEI Interlibrary Loan Form 2.0

A decade ago there was a little web app that allowed patrons of the Provincial Library Service to submit an interlibrary loan request form online. It wasn’t particularly user-friendly, but it was there. And it allowed patrons like me to build tools like this ISBN-to-Interlibrary-Loan bookmarklet.

It’s now 10 years later, and the Provincial Library Service has regressed: patrons visiting the Interlibrary Loan page are instructed to “Fill out and submit an Interlibrary Loan Request Form to your local library.”  And by “submit” they mean “put your coat and boots on and walk over to the library and hand it to them in person.”  The library helpfully Tweeted that forms can be emailed.

As if this regression weren’t bad enough, the form itself isn’t even a bona fide PDF form, so you actually have to print it out and fill it out by hand.

In other words, we’ve successfully recreated the 1973 experience of making interlibrary loans.

At the very least the process calls for an improved PDF form – it calls for much more, but you have to start somewhere – so in the spirit of co-creation, I’ve created the Interlibrary Loan Request Form 2.0. It’s the same old form, but with PDF-form-filling-magic applied to it, so it’s slightly less hostile.

You still need to, in theory, walk it over to the library – although you could try emailing the filled-in form and see what happens – but at least it need no longer be filled out with quill pen by candlelight.

SAB:s klassifikationssystem

I had an hour or two in Landskrona late this afternoon. Most of the shops were closed, rain was threatening, and it was getting dark. So I did what the son of a librarian does: I sought out the Landskrona public library, the “Bibliotek.”

The downtown is relatively well-signed, and I was able to intuit the way to the library by piecing together the evidence: it’s in a cobbled-together collection of buildings a few blocks from city hall and a block from the Landskrona Theatre.

Despite its multi-building-cobble, it’s a bright, pleasant library, with many nooks and crannies to explore. Among other things, I leafed through Stephen Fry’s introduction to Douglas Adams’ last book (I photocopied a particularly good page; 3 SEK, or about 50 cents Canadian), read parts of a book on calligraphy, and browsed through their good collection of graphic novels.

As I wandered about I realized that the system used to organize the books was neither the Library of Congress nor the Dewey Decimal system, but something that seemed uniquely Swedish. I asked at the information desk and a helpful librarian gave me a thorough 10 minute introduction to what is called the SAB:s klassifikationssystem, the SAB being the national association of librarians in Sweden.

It’s an intriguing system of letter combinations where different letters are ganged together to specify topic, chronology, language and form. The librarian told me that it was a system developed by Swedish librarians to “represent the Swedish mindset,” which is a nice way of thinking about a cataloguing system.

Little did I realize that I stumbled on a bibliographic hornet’s nest, however: apparently there is a movement to migrate Swedish libraries to use the Dewey system, a movement that is meeting with some resistance.

You can dive down into the SAB system here: you’ll find, for example, that code lc:d is “Architecture Theory and Psychology” while P:oa is “General: sociological aspects.”

Enjoy it while you can.

SAB System

Prince Edward Island Library Service Ebook and Audiobook Statistics

I was searching about yesterday looking for some information about the DRM system that Overdrive uses to lock up ebooks it makes available to public libraries (including Prince Edward Island’s Library Service, which is a customer).

One of my searches was “how to share Overdrive books” and this search led me to an intriguing-looking slide in a PowerPoint presentation for client libraries:

Anything labelled “please do not share this email with patrons” is prone to make my eyes perk up, and so I read the PowerPoint presentation from beginning to end. It turns out to be a good overview of Overdrive’s offerings for libraries (which, regular readers may recall, I likened to “crazytown” on national radio).

The next slide in the deck was even more interesting than the eyes-only email address; it concerned the reports available to client libraries:

Cool!”, I thought to myself as I fired off an email to the always-helpful librarians at the Provincial Library’s Fortress of Solitude in remotest Morell. I quickly got a reply. Here’s what I learned:

  • Separate and apart from Overdrive, currently there are 48,751 adult library cards and 17,876 children’s library cards for a grand total of 66,627 library cards in service. (By my own calculation, that’s almost exactly 50% of the adult population holding a library card).
  • The Provincial Library Service subscribes to Overdrive’s “One Copy/One User” product – this is the aspect of the service that meant that while I had “checked out” a Teach Yourself Norwegian book nobody else in PEI could borrow it.
  • The Library Service has 5,246 digital items in its collection (read “licenses 5,246 items for one-at-at-time circulation to PEI patrons”): 1,309 audiobooks, 3,931 ebooks and 6 music items.
  • Since May 2011, 3,847 patrons have checked out a digital title (about 8% of total patrons if you only count adults, 6% if you include children).
  • Those patrons have “borrowed” a total of 9,581 audiobooks and 42,268 ebooks for a total of 51,849 digital items borrowed.
  • Today (August 8, 2013) there are 546 patrons with digital items checked out and 587 items on hold.
  • The PEI-branded site has been receiving an average of about 5,000 unique “active visits” (not sure what distinguishes that from “unique visits”) a month over the last three months (May to July of 2013).

Here’s what the registrations-per-month look like (patrons must register with to “check out” items):

(That chart was made with the really-easy-to-use Chartbulder, which I recommend for all your spur-of-the-moment chart-making needs).

So, it would seem, ebooks and audiobooks are popular with we Islanders; what we need to work on next is making the experience of borrowing digital content less 1955-like.

Overdrive Statistics (PEI Provincial Library Service, PDF)33.12 KB
Overdrive User Registrations for PEI (CSV), May 2011 to July 2013480 bytes
PEI-branded Overdrive site traffic, May to August 2013115 bytes

Spark on Digital Books in Libraries

Remember my travails with trying to borrow and then return a digital audiobook about learning Norwegian? Well in late February I recorded a short interview with CBC’s Nora Young about my experience, and CBC Spark has incorporated this into the introduction to a panel discussion about ebooks and libraries that’s a compelling listen:

My favourite quote from my chat with Nora, if I don’t say so myself, is “I don’t know what the answer is, but I gotta imagine that there’s a better way to deal with all this than prohibiting people on PEI from learning Norwegian for 21 days.” The panel that follows has thought much more deeply about these issues than I; it was good to heard the broader context.

Den Tweet som utløste

So remember that tweet from the Public Library Service here in Prince Edward Island? The one that ended up with me depriving the citizens of PEI of the resources needed to learn Norwegian?

Library Tweet

Well, Dan Misener, personable producer of CBC Radio One’s Spark, read the post about my travails and invited me into the studio this morning to talk with host Nora Young about the crazy system we have for library lending of digital things that’s mirrored on the sensible system for library lending physical things.

Listen for it as the “compelling personal anecdote” behind broader Spark discussion of this issue on an upcoming episode.