By Kevin Kelley
Andrew Mangels is excited.
The reason for the Westlake Porter Public Library director’s excitement is that his library joined SearchOhio, a consortium of 21 public library systems in the Buckeye State. The number of library items now available to those holding a Porter library card has grown geometrically.
“We’re now part of a library consortium in which our collection went from 240,000 items to tens of millions of items,” Mangels told West Life.
Porter already had been participating in a national interlibrary loan program through the Online Computer Library Center. But under that system, which Porter will continue to use, the reader had know what book he or she wanted, fill out a request form and have a librarian attempt to obtain the items from another institution. Two to six weeks could elapse before the book was received at Porter.
By contrast, SearchOhio requests typically take three to five days to process.
Patrons access SearchOhio by first searching Porter’s online catalog. The results page includes a link at the upper right. Clicking on that continues the search among the 20 other library systems without the user having to retype search terms.
Porter received a $32,500 grant from the State Library of Ohio
to join SearchOhio; the grant
required Porter to contribute $10,000. The money went for the annual $35,000 subscription fee, software and server costs, and employee training.
Mangels believes the costs of SearchOhio are well worth it. For $45,000, Porter could have purchased around 2,200 new items, Mangels said, but would have had to get rid of the same number to make room. With SearchOhio, Porter provides its patrons with access to tens of millions of items.
“It’s an absolute no-brainer,” he said of the decision.
“A lot of people walk into a library, see the collection in front of them and think that’s all the collection they have,” Mangels said. But SearchOhio expands Porter’s collection, allowing patrons to find books they didn’t even know they were looking for, he explained.
Porter’s membership in SearchOhio also includes access to a second consortium – OhioLINK, a group of 88 Ohio colleges and universities, and the State Library of Ohio. Readers can search for a book from OhioLINK institutions by clicking on a link at the bottom of the SearchOhio results page.
Porter joined SearchOhio in May. Staff members are now confident all technical bugs have been worked out, so they’re now promoting it to their patrons. But many have discovered it on their own already, said Maureen Flanagan, who works in circulation services at Porter.
In the five full months Porter has been a part of SearchOhio, patrons have reserved 2,837 books from the consortium, Flanagan said. That compares to 1,657 reserved throughout all of 2011 under the old-style interlibrary loan system.
This past summer, Porter’s copies of “Life of Pi” were quickly checked out when it was placed on an area school’s summer reading list. But students were able to obtain copies due to Porter’s new membership in SearchOhio, Flanagan noted.
Flanagan sees SearchOhio being popular with the academic crowd — from students in middle school or high school to college students and professors.
“I think it’s going to be very big for students and their parents when they’re trying to find legitimate resources for their papers or projects,” Flanagan told West Life.
Porter’s collection tends to consist of more recently published books, Flanagan said. Sometimes grandparents came to Porter looking for a book they enjoyed as a child that they would like to share with their grandchildren, she said. Now they will be able to obtain such books through SearchOhio, Flanagan noted.
SearchOhio and OhioLink can be accessed online by Porter cardholders. SearchOhio and OhioLINK books can be renewed, but overdue fines are higher — 50 cents a day instead of 10 cents a day for Porter-owned items.