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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

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Information in Ohio's Public Libraries
By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 30, 2015

I received a phone call from the new Ohio representative for EBSCO Information Services introducing himself and telling me about their new information products.

 

I didn’t mean to pop his balloon, but I had already read about their new products; most of which were obtained by mergers with other former “publishers.”

 

Actually, it was a pleasant conversation about the state-of-affairs in the “information marketplace” and the library world and I expressed my amazement that EBSCO Information Services still employes human beings.

 

In today’s world, customer service involved a lengthy email transaction and a phone call and never ending selection of this number and that number combined with reminders that the menu selection has changed.

 

My “new account executive” filled me in on the great plans at EBSCO and their division that works with academic, school, and public libraries and the fact that he deals with all Ohio public libraries, and there is even a local representative living in Ohio as it is such an important state.

 

(I have administered libraries in my 39 years, and I know the routine)

 

Before all this new generation of information services, EBSCO was a paper magazine jobber providing the myriad of subscriptions to libraries.

 

Fortunately for them, they predicted the changes coming to the information distribution marketplace and became a seller of online magazine products, and then acquired paper publisher’s products that could be moved to electronic format, dumping the paper editions --- mostly why they have survived in today’s information marketplace.

 

Aside from introductions, the representative asked how our EBSCO Flipster account is working.  Flipster is an online system that allows library customer to download magazines to their devices from the Cloud.

 

I told him that we now have over a thousand downloads per month and it is growing every day, and we were buying Tablets to allow people to come to one of our library locations if they wanted to browse all the new issues online and don’t town such a device.

 

He also wanted me to know that EBSCO has purchased “Learning Express Library” which we also contract for, an online service that has sample testing products for students and the public in the area of career development, replacing all those test books that are outdated before they are printed.

 

He also sent me information on their “Discovery Service” which helps manage all their online products; and that started the discussion of Ohio public libraries.

 

Discovery Service will be a joint contract with the SEO Library Center where we receive our online catalog and circulation control (computers) and that it now has 92 Ohio public libraries in the system with about 300 library outlets in Ohio.

 

I bragged to him that the Jefferson County public libraries were one of the first four libraries to go into the shared system in 1988, and today most Ohio public libraries are linked into Cleveland Public Library, the Columbus Metropolitan Library System, or SEO for services.

 

We talked about OPLIN, OhioLink, InfoOhio, and OHIONET, some of the statewide systems that link all types of Ohio libraries together for information services.

 

He said that EBSCO’s operations in Ohio are far different that other states that lack the connectivity that Ohio’s information system have, and that they can offer Ohio better prices and products with these shared contractual agreements.

 

I rattled on about the State Library of Ohio and its century of library development efforts, and an act of the Ohio Legislature in 1933 that began the process of making public library services available to all Ohio citizens.

 

By the time I was finished, I had to admit to being a bit worn out, but I love to give the speech!

 

The customers of our libraries are the winners.  I was talking to one of our library customers who winters in South Carolina, and commented that it was great to “get back home to the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.”

 

She said that the library she uses in the Carolina didn’t own a book she wanted to read, and when she asked the staff at the library desk about it, they told her to go to another desk which had a manual typewriter on it.

 

She did, and a staffer proceeded to pound out a 4-carbon form, which would be mailed to someplace in the state capitol, and her requested book would be sent in 2-4 weeks.  She thanked them for their efforts, but said she would wait until she gets home to Steubenville and request it online.