Five years ago the Provincial Library Service here in Prince Edward Island had a convenient web form that patrons could use to make inter-library loan requests. This was nice, in part, because it meant that you could build applications that depended on it.
Alas this handiness has been replaced, inexplicably, by an unhelpful page that directs one to download a PDF about inter-library loans. It appears, thus, that you now have to actually go to the library itself and fill out an “interlibrary loan request form.” With a pencil.
It’s like 1952 all over again.
There is a web-based form to make a request to have the library purchase something. Alas it too harkens back to an earlier era of unhelpfulness; read this, for example:
Patrons who submit a suggestion for purchase are encouraged to keep checking the catalogue and if the item appears, place the request themselves at that time. If the title does not appear in our catalogue after three months, assume that it is not going to be purchased.
While it’s understandable that the library can’t purchase everything that’s requested, their low level of online literacy suggests perhaps that they record purchase requests with quill pens in a ledger and review them once a year. If nothing else one can sense “exhausted, understaffed and overwhelmed” behind the verbiage on those pages; they might just as well say “look, we’re not really going to purchase anything you request, so stop asking already and go to Indigo.”
So here’s my idea: take the engine that runs Digg, the “social news” website, and repurpose it as a web application that allows library patrons to collectively decide which books the library system should purchase. Patrons would “login” to “LibraryDigg” with their regular library card number and password, and then could enter books, DVDs, etc. that they want opened up for consideration.
Every library patron would be allowed access to the list of requests, and could “Digg” — vote that they be purchased — things they want to see purchased too.
While you’d want to leave a certain amount of the book budget to librarian’s discretion to ensure a well-rounded collection, another certain portion could be devoted to “community determined” purchases.
In theory this would make the book purchase budget more responsive to actual patron interests, and over and above that utility I think it would provide an interesting platform around which to build interest in and discussion about things in the library.