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New Technologies at POB Library

For better or for worse, the days when going to the library was all about wandering the stacks are over. At the May 19 meeting of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library Board of Trustees, much of the discussion centered around new services and technologies that are either available at the library now, or will be in the near future.

One of the first issues addressed was the possible replacement of the Westlaw NY Pro Plus Law Library with the newer LexisNexis Library Express legal database. Reference librarian Sandi Silkes said that despite the appeal of LexisNexis, she’s heard no complaints from patrons about the Westlaw database. President Joseph Eisner said that the board would need more information before deciding between the two databases. Rhoda Orenstein suggested waiting another year to make the change, which will allow the software to improve before they re-assess the situation next year. While the subject was not put to a vote at the meeting, it seems as though the majority of the Board favored maintaining the current database.

In the Director’s Report, library Director Gretchen Browne addressed concerns with many soon-to-be implemented library systems, such as a new video surveillance system. Trustee Rhoda Orenstein expressed concern that there may be disadvantages to having large amounts of footage of patrons available, but it was clarified that the cameras will have limited storage space that will be periodically reused, meaning that they cannot be used for archiving footage. Other upcoming improvements to the facility include the addition of new lights and ceiling tiles to the Circulation area.

The library is also introducing an element of e-commerce by allowing patrons to pay overdue fees and make donations online. This method of payment has been approved by ALIS (Automated Library Information System), and is expected to be operational by the end of 2010. However, the option of paying overdue fees the traditional way—in person, at the Circulation Desk- will remain available. Board members commented on how the convenience of paying overdue fees online will be appreciated by many patrons.

Mobile technology will be put into use, with the library soon to adopt PDA’s utilizing RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) in order to keep better track of books. While it will be necessary to change the tracking of the books over from barcodes to RFID tags, according to Browne the new system should not incur any additional cost. In addition, thanks to the library’s participation in Nassau Digital Doorway, patrons will be able to digitally check out media for use on their phones, MP3 players, and iPads.

In the midst of all these changes, the Board discussed the place of the library in the modern age, as the rituals of day-to-day life are vastly different from what they were as recently as even 10 or 15 years ago. However, rather than holding onto the past, members of the Board were keen to discuss the new roles that the library could now adapt to, such as becoming even more essential as a community meeting center. While there was plenty to discuss in terms of hard materials (in fact, the Material Selection Policy is currently being re-drafted), it was clear that the Board sees the role of the library in terms beyond that of simple content distribution.

For more information about upcoming programs, and to find out more about new options like checking out books and audiobooks through Nassau Digital Doorway, visit the website at www.nassaulibrary.org/plainv.