Category Archives: Salt Lake City Library

Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake City Public Library

The difficulty in reviewing Library 2.0 technologies on the Salt Lake City Public Library’s webpage is that as far as I can tell there are no tools anywhere on the site. There may be some hiding somewhere on the site or on the Internet, but my inability to find them makes me think that a user of their website would be equally unable to discover them. What I did find was that the website is very static, the only aspects that invite user participation are the circulation elements where users can renew and reserve books and search the catalog. The majority of the website is made up of links to other information sources or bits of information. Rather then having a calender where users can make various choices to narrow down events in different ways, the Salt Lake City Public Library has different event lists, already divided by various factors, such as location, age group, and month. This website illustrates an important distinction between library websites that have and have not embraced library 2.0.

 One of the key characteristics of Library 2.0 is the ability for users to take an active role in shaping their own library experience, by being able to interact with the library in various ways through their website and through other tools. Users can not just find information that meets their needs, but find ways to have that information continuously updated and sent in a convenient way. Even the less innovative means of e-mail booklist newsletters allows this sort of interaction and specialization. These tools empower users to create the library experience they need, beyond just finding the books they need.

Because the Salt Lake City Public Library has no obvious Library 2.0 tools, I will not be asking the usual questions and reviewing their efficacy. It is interesting to note that while there are no Library 2.0 discussed on their website, they do offer classes to train patrons in some of these tools, such as a class on blogs and how to create them.


Subscription Databases Salt Lake City Library

The Salt Lake City Public Library has a very simple opening page, that directs users interested in electronic research to a “Research Center.” Like the county system, the city library provides access to databases provided by the Pioneer State library system as well as subscriptions funded through the city library distinguishing between those resources provided by each service. Also similar to the county system, they have included selected database resources in their “homework help” section on their teen page.  As I review the way that these databases are integrated into the electronic presence of this library, I will ask the same three questions:

  • What pathways are available for accessing the databases?
  • What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the databases?
  • What explanations/tools are available to determine which database to use, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

Answering these questions will help me to determine, not only what types of services are offered, but how well users are able to navigate the website independently to find answers that are suitable to their information needs and their developmental levels.


Pathways for Accessing Databases:


Subscription databases on the Salt Lake City Public Library are primarily accessible from a Research Center opening platform, which directs users to different subscription services. These include the Pioneer Databases, the general subscriptions, those through a partnership with the Foundation Center in New York, and their netlibrary audio book subscription center.  Services targeted at teens and children are also located on Homework Help pages for each age group, where they are mixed together with general resources.


From the opening platform, most of the subscription services are accessible from a page called “search databases.” This page has three different listings of the databases, one by subject, one in alphabetical order, and one with the descriptions. In the topical area each database is broken down into the component parts that would work within each topic, such as the different EBSCO database interfaces. Since they are broken down into parts, there are more services listed in the topical areas then in the alphabetical, and more in the alphabetical listings then in the descriptions. Bellow the side by side alphabetical and topical lists, there is a listing with descriptions. This listing groups services together by the service provider, so rather then ten different listings for EBSCO databases, there is one paragraph about all of them. The descriptions are very short, and not always illustrative of what is actually available through them.


Databases are also accessible through pages specifically designed to help children and teens with their homework. There is a Teen page and a Kid page which offer a selection of databases that are aimed at these groups, and an additional page called “Databases for the Student.” )


Assistance in Using the Databases:


 The Salt Lake City Library system offers quite a bit of assistance for the general user who wants to use their subscription databases. The opening page of their “Research Center” points out that these services are accessible from home with a library card—an important accessibility feature that is not always spelled-out right out front. They also provide links to tutorials provided by the databases they subscribe to, such as the video tutorial for the EBSCO Kids Search.


Beyond the continual reminder of the need for a library card, the City library also provides a very useful research guide directly aimed for students. It provides an extensive explanation of what the databases in general are and what they are useful for, offering specifics on what classes what databases might prove useful for students to use. Unlike the lists of databases on other pages, this provides more of a narrative account of the resources. The one weakness of this resource is that it is almost impossible to find, both on the website and in the library. (I saw it on one pass through the site, but it still took me a good 15 minutes to find it again when I went back to write this up


More prominently displayed then this “Student Guide” is a great bullet point presentation on several key resources for teens. This is a great resource because it not only provides students with information as to WHY they should use a database, WHAT they will get from using it, but most importantly HOW to use it. In step by step instructions, the guide walks users through the somewhat complicated pathway to accessing these databases. It would be nice to have a more visual tool to present this material, but the information is spot on. Unfortunately the kid’s “Homework Spot” is merely a list of databases for kids, with the warning they will need their library card number, and a list of general internet websites.


Database Choice—Descriptions and Age Appropriateness:


This category overlaps with the previous one, because offering clear and concise descriptions of databases is one of the best forms of assistance that libraries can provide their users. It is important to tell users a few crucial pieces of information in these descriptions: WHO, WHAT, WHY, and HOW.  On the main research center, the Salt Lake City Library breaks the databases down into subject groups, which indicates to some degree what will be found there. They also provide short descriptions of the databases that do not all answer these questions. For instance this is what they say about their EBSCO databases on the main page:

EBSCOhost Research Databases (via Pioneer) | EBSCOhost Tutorials | these powerful tools index millions of full-text articles across all subject areas. Includes: Academic Search Premier, Agricola, Alt Health Watch, Business Source Premier, Clinical Phamacology, Computer Science, EBSCO Animals, ERIC, Fuente Academica, Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, Health Source, Legal Collection, MAS Ultra – School Edition, MasterFILE Premier, MedicLatina, MEDLINE, Middle Search Plus, Military & Government Collection, Newspaper Source, Primary Search, Professional Development Collection, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, Regional Business News, Religion and Philosophy Collection, TOPICsearch, and Vocational and Career Collection.”

This is just a list of databases they subscribe to, and only incidentally answers any of these questions. On the page designed for teens, however, they offer a much more pointed explanation of what can be found through this tool, why people would want to use it, and even offer a step by step guide on how to use it:

EBSCO Student Research Center

Why this site is great:

  • You can click “Visual Search” at the top of the home page and use an interactive search feature (GROK) that helps you narrow and refine your topic
  • In addition to the typical newspaper and magazine articles, this site will pull up RADIO AND TV TRANSCRIPTS
  • This site has an excellent collection of PHOTOS and an easy way to access them (click the” Photos, Maps, and Flags” icon, and then type the subject you want in the search box)
  • You can easily limit your search to “PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS” if that’s what your teacher has requested.

How to get there:

  • Click here
  • Then click “Student Research Center – High School and Middle School”
  • If you are at home,
  • Go to our library website at
  • Click “Research Center” on the left side of the home page
  • Click “Search Databases”
  • Go to the Alphabetical list and click “EBSCO Research Databases” and log in with your name and library card number

This second description also demonstrates how databases can be presented answering these questions as well as addressing specific groups of users with particular information needs. Many of these databases are designed with specific interfaces for distinct developmental levels—such as the High School and Middle School search. It would be really useful if more of the descriptions pointed this out.


Overall Review of Database Accessibility:


In a lot of ways the Salt Lake City Public Library has many excellent features to promote accessibility to their databases, but they are very unevenly deployed. Their presentation of databases for teens is excellent, but the general page on databases is overwhelming with little specific direction for users. By extending the type of description available to the teens to other areas of the website, the library would better be able to serve all of its customers. Even the presentation to the teens could be improved through the supplement of a visual tool that could illustrate the needed steps needed to access databases.


Library Instruction and the OPAC

Online Public Access Catalogs all really have the same aim, to help users discover items that fulfill their information needs. Even though many systems pile features on top and around this purpose, perhaps to facilitate discovery, the basic purpose of the OPAC remains the same. After reviewing four systems it is obvious that there are a lot of factors that go into the intuitiveness of a catalog. Some OPACs have a lot of features, but no assistance for how to use them, others have lots of instruction for multiple features, but they don’t work how they are supposed to, which lessens their overall usefulness. The question isn’t if they work—because with enough time and effort it is possible to find materials through all the catalogs—but how well they work for users independently accessing them.


Many libraries rely on in-person staff instruction to guide users in discovering the features of their OPAC, neglecting those users who either access the OPAC from the internet or prefer not to ask for help. Even those libraries whose OPACs have instruction may not be able to reach those with specific needs, or reach children, who may not understand the terminology used in some catalogs (such as UAPL’s OPAC). There really isn’t one solution to make all of these OPAC’s more accessible for parents, teachers, and children, as each of those reviewed had different issues. Certainly catalogs like CML’s and the UAPL that had almost no instruction could integrate more directly into their interfaces, and those like Salt Lake County Libraries could make their instructions more obvious.


In conducting this first review, I understand that many of these OPACs are purchased from outside distributors, and that the individual libraries may not have the ability to add or modify them to integrate more instruction. Perhaps, instead of cramming instructional tools onto the search interfaces, some of these libraries might provide electronic tutorials to guide users in the catalog. Instructional videos are quick and easy to make, and can bring together written and oral instruction together to better reach both children and adults. In my next post, I will discuss the technology and process of creating an instructional video to demonstrate how to use the CML catalog to find materials for children.

Salt Lake City Public Library OPAC

The second OPAC I’ll be reviewing is that of the Salt Lake City Public Library System. While similarly available in both Spanish and English, unlike the county system, the City Library’s catalog is very simple. It is accessible both from catalog stations in the library building, and from the sidebar of the library’s website. As in my previous review, I will look at the follow three areas in my discussion of this OPAC:

  1. What tools and interfaces are available for accessing the catalog?
  2. What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the catalog?
  3. What explanations/tools are available to evaluate the results of using the catalog, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

Tools and interfaces available for accessing the City Library Catalog:                  

This OPAC is fairly simple, both in Spanish and in English. It has a Quick Search interface and then five pages each for searching by specific areas. The Quick Search has a drop down menu to select what specific area to search, which has all the same areas that are listed below with the addition of the ability to search by ISBN/ISSN/LCCN. It is also possible to search in a specific area (such as Title or Author) by clicking on it underneath the quick search. This leads to a new page with just one search box, designed to search just for that specific thing. The only exception to this is in the Keyword Search, which contains more tools for directing the search. Keyword searches can be narrowed down by material type, language, and date range, and can be sorted by relevance, date, or title.


Assistance Available to Explain or Guide the Use of the Catalog:

Even though this is a very simple catalog, with few different tools and interfaces, there is assistance provided to help users. In each specific search area, there are examples of how to phrase search queries, and how to create search strings to get the best results. These are on the same page as the search box, and range from simple explanations of what order to put the first and last name when searching for an author, to lengthy explanations of how to compose a keyword search using truncation, adjacency, proximity, and various other terms, each with examples. Unfortunately they are not translated into Spanish, but since the actual catalog is in English besides the interface, it is not really possible to get a full bilingual experience.  


Explanations/Tools Available to Evaluate the Results of Using the Catalog:

Once a search is conducted using any of the simple interfaces, there is some information immediately available to help users evaluate the results of their search. First the results are ranked based on relevance, which means the most pertinent records are at the beginning. Then the basic details are shown, including whether or not the item is available and where it is located. Users are also able to rate items, and save them into lists, which they can access later.


 Another interesting feature to help users with their information needs are links to information related to the item in other databases, and to reviews from places like This can help users determine if a selected work will fulfill their information needs. Unfortunately, when I tested these additional resources, most of the links did not work, and brought me to pages that said “no result found.” Certainly, these are only helpful if they actually work consistently enough for people to trust they will be working!


Overall Review of the Salt Lake City Library’s OPAC:       

While this is a very simple system, it has some bells and whistles that elevate it beyond the traditional catalog, however, few of these features are particularly useful for parents or children. With no way to narrow a search to Juvenile or Children’s materials, or rank books based on reading level or intended audience, this catalog leaves something to be desired. The useful descriptions on each search page could also be modified to include more information about using the more advanced features on each item’s detailed record. These features seem likely to be neglected, as there is not a lot of assistance in using them.





Salt Lake City Library


The second library system that I am looking at for my final project is the city library in Salt Lake City. A smaller system, it serves a population of around 200k, through five branches and a central library. Their annual circulation is around 3.4 million.

The Salt Lake City system subscribes to at least 40 databases, some of which are made available through partnership with Utah’s Pioneer Online State Library system.  This cooperative system allows academic, k-12 school libraries, and public libraries to spread the cost of expensive databases around to more systems.

This smaller system was selected to illustrate different approaches to using some of the same shared resources from the shared state library system (which the county system also utilizes) as well as to contrast with the smaller library system in Ohio that I will also be reviewing. Another reason to look at this system is its position in an urban environment, serving a large ESL population, which is reflected both in its electronic and physical presence.

In looking at this system, my first questions focus on what electronic resources they offer, what pathways they have to enter them, and what sorts of explainations they have of how to use them and why people would want to use them. I’m particularly interested in how these things are directed towards children and their caregivers.