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Kelvin Watson, Vice President Digital Services & Strategy and Interim Vice President Information, Technology, and Development, Queens Public Library
Libraries invest with a variety of eResource providers to license a rich array of eResources for its patrons and are sometimes forced to rely on a complex set of proprietary interfaces to navigate and deliver them. Only the most savvy patrons are able to keep track of a large number of separate usernames and passwords and website URLs. Even when this barrier is crossed, accessing the eResource (or even finding out what is available) requires the user to follow links out of the library’s system and over to the eResource provider’s system. These systems are often “walled gardens,” where the eResource provider, not the library, controls the user’s experience, and it is difficult for the user to make their way back to the library site if they don’t find what they need on the vendor’s site. This complexity hinders the patron’s ability to easily discover, engage with, and consume the library’s valuable investments and instead often concludes in frustration and failure. The Queens Library has embarked on a project to radically improve the way library patrons discover and access eResources. Queens Library intends to create a Virtual Library System that will provide a best of breed solution for accessing eResources for all of Queens Library’s patrons. This System will eventually allow Queen’s patrons to have seamless access to digital materials all within Queens Library’s own web and mobile interfaces. This system will replace the unwieldy model that creates many barriers for users looking to access digital content, barriers that run the range from software that is too complicated for those with little digital experience to navigate, to the lack of access to devices on which content can be consumed. Libraries have to continue to reach beyond the confines of its physical locations and extend its presence into people’s homes by providing devices that will let patrons interact more deeply with the Library’s offerings. The Virtual Library System will keep Queen’s Library’s doors open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and shifts the balance of power from providers to libraries and patrons.