Would you like to check the library catalog from your home PC to see if a book is on the shelves before driving over? (or to renew or reserve a book from home?)
Or download a free audiobook to your PC or MP3 player to listen to at your convenience?
Or look up an article in The New York Times or the Encyclopedia Britannica for free from your PC, rather than pay to access those publications' websites?
Or electronically chat with a "Live Librarian" when the library is closed?
All this and more is possible from the Port Washington Public Library's newly revamped website, now online at www.pwpl.org thanks to a generous gift from the Friends of the Library.
As part of its year-long 40th anniversary celebration, the FOL made a special gift of $12,000 for the redesign of the site, which boasts an eye-catching design as well as many new features. "The library's website is used by patrons of all ages," says Friends president Amy Bass. "In deciding on a special project to fund to commemorate our 40th anniversary, we wanted to focus on the future. And the library's online presence is a key part of that future."
The homepage now highlights the week's events, today's library hours and even today's weather in Port (click on the "Find it Fast" pull-down menu). The site offers many options developed in close consultation with the FOL and the staff, and based on patron suggestions and extensive research into other libraries' online offerings. "The library's new website provides one more very important way for the library to reach out to the community. It offers virtual services which are always available, bringing many services directly into the homes of our library users," explains Corinne Camarata, assistant library director. "As the way we live our lives continues to evolve and change, the library will be ready to respond with meaningful, relevant choices for the public."
In addition to the features listed above, you can participate in up to 11 online book clubs including fiction, mystery and teen; peruse the monthly events calendar and look up past calendars; see what new books, CDs, audiobooks and videos have been added to the shelves recently (click on "New Arrivals" in the toolbar); sign up for a library card; and even tour a clickable map of the library (under the "About Us" section). In addition, Media Services has posted many of its video lists by subject area (click on Indian films to see a list of available "Bollywood" hits, for example).
The "eAudiobooks" feature allows you to download up to 10 titles at a time from more than 1,000 popular fiction and non-fiction titles, including over 150 childrens books. For example, the entire Pimsleur Language Instruction Series is available for those wishing to learn 13 foreign languages (and for speakers of 38 different languages who want to learn English). Note that you can download audiobooks to your home PC or to a Windows-based MP3 player but not to iPods.
Another revamped area of the website is the freshly redesigned TeenSpace section, which contains many new features, including special sub-sections on homework and college, a blog, teen-written reviews, and more. A new children's page will debut soon.
Many patrons are unaware of the extraordinary collection of online databases available on the library website (click on "Research" in the top toolbar). They are free and require only your library card number to access. You can research like a professional at home, 24/7. Databases cover topics such as business, health, technology, art, education, science, and literature in addition to extensive newspaper and publication databases, including Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, and current and archival The New York Times.
The wealth of quality information available is stunning. For example, instead of researching the composer "Beethoven" via Google (and having to scan through listings that include kids movies and student homework pages) you can find the most authoritative information in the Britannica and the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Other database options: Students can take practice test exams like the SAT and GMAT (via Learning Express) and study career and college options (via Career Cruising), while adults can print out popular legal forms (via Thomson Gale Legal Forms) or research specialized genealogy and census data (via Heritage Quest). There are databases for antiques prices, Associated Press photos, and more than 1 million book reviews! And the NoveList reader's advisory service is a clever, in-depth way to seek out new reading options.
The "My Account" page (accessed from a tab at the top and bottom of every page) will show you items you've checked out or requested, due dates (in case you lost that little yellow receipt!), and pending fines.
Don't forget to sign up for the library and FOL email alerts about events, programs and library news. Information on the FOL, as well as its special 40th Anniversary celebration weekend scheduled for Nov. 3-5, can be found at pwpl.org/fol. Free events for all ages are planned. Donation forms also are available for home printing - online donation capability is coming, as well.
The library is always open at www.pwpl.org. Website "architects" are Fredi Bremond of fredi b design and software engineer Tim Gardner of codeHorse.