by Charles Clemence
As libraries have been completing their new websites using the Word Press software, Kristen has been sending out messages letting us know that the new sites are going live. Whenever a message comes to me I always go to look at the site. Partly this is curiosity, but there is a professional reason to go as well. I like to look and see if the library site has a link to the two programs I’m most involved with – WRLSWEB and WISCAT.
So far all the new sites have been from WRLSWEB libraries and all have had a link to WRLSWEB; however, not all libraries have a link to WISCAT. I would think this would be a natural connection to make and I’d urge you to add a WISCAT link if you don’t have one already. I’d also encourage you to link to your own library’s interface with WISCAT by using this URL: http://www.wiscat.net/agent/login.asp?cid=stwi&lid=xxxx&mode=g .
Each library should change the “xxxx” before the “&mode=g” in the URL with your library’s four letter WISCAT code. So the link for Winding Rivers would be http://www.wiscat.net/agent/login.asp?cid=stwi&lid=xa39&mode=g, since xa39 is our code. Using this address will take your patrons to the search interface for your library.
Currently most libraries that have a WISCAT link are connecting to the site maintained by the state. But if you connect patrons to your site you will have control over what they see, the search defaults, and their access to ILL functions. The above address will connect your patrons through the ‘guest’ interface. There are also ‘patron’ and ‘staff’ interfaces at everyone’s WISCAT site. The advantage of using the guest interface is that you can then enable the ILL permissions at the guest site, allowing anyone who accesses your site to place interlibrary loan requests online.
Most of you know that I have been promoting patron initiated ILL for over 10 years now. Many of you are doing at least some patron generated requests. (This may be in spite of my urging rather than because of it). You also know that in the past I have promoted requiring patrons to become registered as users in the Agent software before allowing them to create requests. However last August Agent was updated to allow a library to make the library card number field mandatory on their own ILL request form. At that point I changed my mind about requiring patrons to register in Agent before creating their own requests. If you can require a library card number then you can confirm you have the correct patron even if their contact information is missing or incomplete. Now anyone with a valid WRLS library card could be allowed to create ILL requests in WISCAT at whatever library they want to go to for pickup. Could, that is, if every WRLS library enabled patron initiated requesting.
The idea of such an open approach to ILL may fill you with mild dread or even horror. If that’s the case, don’t be dismayed. There are at least two libraries in WRLS – La Crosse PL and Black River Falls PL – that have taken this approach. Among nonpublic libraries, Viterbo University is doing it too. There may be others that I’m not aware of. So far none of these libraries have reported being buried in a deluge of ILL requests. Their ILL traffic has increased and their patrons are more happy with ILL. But to me those seem like good outcomes.
You don’t have to be a WRLSWEB library or even a public library to take requests directly from patrons. Anyone with a WISCAT license can open up their site to patron requests in just a few clicks of the mouse. I’d encourage any library that’s even slightly interested to give me a call and we can talk about it in more detail. I think once you try it you’ll like it.
(from July 2010)