I have a question for those public library-ish people who read my blog. I have already posed this question to my fellow, former Clarion classmates, and I thank them for their responses. While I always like to think in terms of all-inclusiveness with regard to librarians and libraries–academic, school, special, and public alike–this question is specific to public libraries.

As a cataloger (it is sometimes difficult for me to think like a cataloger, but I manage to do it from time to time…), I am finding more and more that our member libraries’ dedicated, closed OPAC computer terminals are causing problems when we think about adding records for electronic resources to the catalog, which require adding live links to catalog records for optimal access and retrieval of information. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about what those problems are (and we do have electronic resources in the catalog now), but my main question is this:

How many of your libraries still use computers dedicated to the OPAC, and if you do, how many of those dedicated OPACs are closed with regard to internet access? What are your reasons for maintaining these dedicated OPACs? Are they used heavily? Why are they closed? If they are not closed, why not? How do your users link to electronic resources via your OPAC and/or public access (internet stations) computers? Are there any problems with regard to remote usage of electronic resources–from outside of the library building? If so, what are these problems and how do you solve them?

I’ve been thinking about this issue and wondering if the days of dedicated OPACs are necessarily numbered. While I know and understand the reasons that the libraries in our system still use them, I can’t help but consider the possibility that as a public library’s collection grows to include more and more resources that are outside the library’s physical collection–not in the building–that these dedicated OPAC stations are less and less useful, especially if they are closed. But since I don’t work in an actual library (except for 2 hours of volunteer time every week), I don’t have the same perspective that those of you on the front lines have. And I’m very interested in what other systems/libraries are doing.

As I was pondering this question at the end of last week, I came across this, which is an excellent summary of this very issue and various methods of handling the situation. However, it pertains to academic libraries. I would very much like to get the same sort of information from public libraries, particularly those in Pennsylvania, although if you’re located outside of Pennsylvania, I would love to have your input, too.

Hope to hear from some of you! Thanks in advance!