Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Bibliophile's Happy Hunting Ground

One of the many benefits of living in a larger city is the possibility of having access to a considerable public library system, further interconnected into many other library and information systems.

In my case, the San Francisco Public Library offers many bons bons, from DVDs of classic films from the early golden era of film-making to several shelves full of new non-fiction books, which can offer kinds of tempting surprises. But it is the inter-library loan system that is so captivatingly powerful.

Almost every book that sounds interesting can found in seconds through the catalogue browser, and then requested either from the public library or from any of the participating libraries, which include the local universities. All of this is accomplished through the same web interface.

I can also check on the status of the many books I have requested, and because they tell me how many other people have requested the same book and what number I am in the queue, I can guess how soon I am might expect to get a particular book. I can then decide whether I should wait and try before buying or if the book is sufficiently enticing or necessary, I should head to a book shop or online and buy it sooner.

It is another example of content and context, in this case, knowing where I am in the system allows me to make timely and better informed decisions, and better plan my research and writing, instead of endless hunting, waiting and wondering.

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