Online Catalog and Reference Sources
Technology is not new to the Camden County Library. The library has had an online public access catalog for more than ten years. Using the library’s DRA Information Gateway software, users can elect to see the online catalog as well as reference databases (ERIC, Books In Print, etc.) located at DRA in St. Louis. Forming a closer partnership among two CamNet members, Camden County College Library has contracted with Camden County Library to mount its patron and bibliographic databases in the same online system, resulting in a union catalog and enabling users to borrow from either institution.
Sumler is acutely aware that local library patrons are still struggling to understand the online library catalogs that many librarians now take for granted. Camden County Library patrons reminded the library staff of this important issue in their responses to a patron survey that was part of a strategic planning process. As a result, when the library switched to DRA Information Gateway software as the user interface to its online catalog, Sumler formed a Catalog Access Team to supply training and other support needed to prepare both staff and patrons for the change.
At the Camden County Library, as at many other libraries, terminals and workstations at each facility are dedicated to delivering different types of information depending on the locations and capabilities of the particular machines and the amount of progress the library has made toward its own networking goals. For example, journal information from EBSCO is delivered within the main library at a group of workstations in the periodical area, but is not yet available in the branches. CD-ROM reference tools are delivered on stand-alone machines, awaiting the delivery of a reference local area network. Connecting these multiple information resources, multiple work stations, and multiple sites is a significant hurdle, not because the technology is complex, but because the hardware, software, and staff to keep the network connections running are costly. The supervisor of automated service, Lori Schwabenbauer, would like to see “all electronic resources available from any workstation.” But even when all of the network connections within the Camden County Library system are operating according to plan, presenting the many and varied information sources in a way that is logical and coherent to the public from both inside and outside the library will continue to be an ongoing challenge for Camden as for all libraries.