The Public Library and Ebay

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This is a document I created in an attempt to be "sticky" to my library and county management about the role of a Library IT department in providing library services.

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The Public Library and Ebay

  1. 1. The Public Library and eBay As seen in their recent successful television advertising campaign, eBay exists to help people find IT, whatever IT is. As reflected in the continuing high praise for its value to the citizens of Wake County, the public library employs staff and resources specifically to help people find IT, whatever IT is. IT is a board book that a young mother checks out to read to her toddler - teaching her the alphabet. IT is the right online source that helps a middle schooler complete his class project on tree frogs. IT is an armful of “New York Times Best Seller” fiction to make a long business trip more bearable. IT is a pricey book on starting a Small Business that a budding local entrepreneur needs, but can’t afford to buy right now. IT is a book about selling on eBay. IT is anything. IT can be everything. IT is provided to library customers whenever they need or want IT. But the similarities don’t stop there… The ‘backend’ of eBay – that is, the technology that makes the website and company work – is an enormously complex symphony of moving parts. All the lists of items for sale, displayed with pictures and descriptions. q All the active online auctions that must begin and end like clockwork to q produce the ‘winner’. All the businesses – large and small – that have created accounts to sell q IT. All the customers – new and returning – who are looking to buy IT. q All the transactions the eBay system manages – each successive bid, q secure links to personal accounts, and ‘wish lists’ created by potential customers, identifying what IT is for them.
  2. 2. The Public Library and eBay The backend of Wake County Public Libraries – that is, the technology that makes our ILS (Integrated Library System) work is another complex symphony of moving parts. Over 2 million dollars of Wake County taxpayer money is spent using the q ILS. The ILS interacts electronically with book vendors to select, purchase, and receive all library materials. The ILS displays IT to our customers: books and other materials complete q with cover art, summaries and reviews. According to Google Analytics, our online catalog receives over 5,000 separate visits each day. The ILS maintains the privacy of numerous customer accounts – currently q over 360,000 – and it utilizes telephone, email, and US Mail to make regular contact with them. Every customer can access their personal account in a secure fashion any time of day or night to track all transactions associated with their library card. Every transaction, from searching to requesting to checking out then q checking back in, is recorded and maintained in the ILS system. 8 million + circulations, an impressive number that places Wake County into the top 50 library systems in the nation, is even more impressive when one realizes this is the count of outbound transactions only. All those books come back, and the ILS routes each return to meet the needs of other customers. The ILS is designed to allow our customers to create their own IT q wishlists. Lists of books to read, books already read, books to buy – whatever IT is for each customer. The Public Library is the eBay of books, learning, and personal growth for the citizens of Wake County.

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