Thursday, June 10, 2010

Library Data Base Access

Chicago Public Library had to curtail their hours as a cost cutting measure. That means that all branches are no longer open from 9 am to 9 pm. One some days the hours are 12n to 8 pm and others 10a - 6 pm. Hours are staggered so that nearby branches are open late on different days. This is a reasonable accommodation based on the need to trim the budget. Personally I visit the library in person mostly for recreational reading and videos. I visit rarely as I don't really think the branch is a pleasant place to visit. Chicago happens to have most of its population within 2 miles of one of their 79 branches. Each branch serves about 35,000 residents. This compares to the nearby suburbs of Skokie (population 63,000) with one location and Evanston (population 74,000) with a main library and two small branches. One county I did consulting for had one library in the entire county serving a geographic area much larger than the City of Chicago.

Libraries supplement their physical hours with 24/7 access to data bases. Most data bases are available to library card holders from any Internet connection. One exception is JSTOR. This is full text data base for the humanities. Some journals have more than 50 years of material available. CPL only has a license for the use of JSTOR within a branch building. Last week I needed access. I went to my local branch 35 minutes before closing. I couldn't use a computer because the reservation system would allow access so close to the 6 pm closing. I just needed 15 minutes. I went to the catalog computer. I could search JSTOR, but the computer was locked so that I couldn't save an article or e-mail it to myself. I went to the reference librarian to ask if there was a work around. I was told that I could go to another branch that had evening hours. Access to the computers was not within her control.

I sent an e-mail to the administrator in charge of all the branches with a copy to the branch librarian, but received no reply. They probably still think that I am a trouble maker because 15 years ago I pointed out that my son couldn't reach the keyboard for the computers and requested something for him to stand on or a computer that one could sit down to use.

The library  has a valuable resource that  cost more than $10,000 year, but access is not easily available.  Even if I were to go to branch my research time would be limited to the time they allow for their open computers.  There is no priority for research as opposed to recreational or personal use. Probably  most patrons have no need for JSTOR or any research level data base.  I wonder how many times the reference librarians have ever used these data bases?

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