Web 2.0 Best Practices: When Author Events Lead to Library Collections

SOPACs—Social Online Public Access Catalogs—are expanding so quickly that yesterday’s dream (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) is on the verge of becoming today’s routine.
Take, for instance, the interactions between library staff, library users, library catalogs, and libraries themselves in one small way: through a library-sponsored author event. One year ago, before John Blyberg unveiled what he dubbed a SOPAC at Ann Arbor District Library and then moved over to Darien (Connecticut) Library, the library user might have learned of the event through a flyer, a library newsletter, a listing in a local newspaper, word of mouth, or by searching an online calendar of events provided by a library. The interactivity of SOPACs like the one currently in use at Nashville Public Library is inspiring additional connections between library users, OPACs, and websites.
Visitors to the Library’s website are able to see a brief and visually attractive listing of a few featured events. If they choose the link for a specific author event, they jump to a description of the event, can click on a link to have an email reminder sent to them shortly before the event takes place, and can use additional links to find other “Books & Writers” events which include access to the Library’s collections (note added 11/30/07: library catalog link is to the left of the events column). Trying the initial “Books and Writers” link myself, I discovered that a documentary film about Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam and the writing of his final book will be held at the Library on December 11—news compelling enough to make me wish I could be in Nashville that evening.
The same Library home page can help readers make even more direct connections to the online catalog: following a link from a brief news item about novelist Ann Patchett receiving the 2007 Nashville Public Library Literary Award leads to a detailed press release which allows readers to check on the availability, through Nashville’s online catalog, of any of her works which are owned by the Library.
Nashville Public Library Public Relations staff was the driving force behind this innovation, according to Library Automation Specialist Jamen McGranahan. Library staff worked together to develop the links between the pages and Nashville’s WebPAC. The winners, of course, are the Library’s users—and any others who decide to implement their own versions of what Nashville has accomplished.