The Seattle Public Library finally reopened the branch in my neighborhood not so very long ago. I was reminded of this when at the end of last week I heard that restrooms in the facility had been closed due to drug problems, a genuine irritation in Capitol Hill generally at the moment.

The day after Mayor Nickels’ most recent appearance on KUOW, the restrooms reopened.

The tempest in a toilet bowl tickled my memory and I realized that ever since getting my library card reactivated, I had intended to look into the library’s online reservations and catalog system. Eons ago, before the Age of the Web, the Seattle Public Library system offered an online catalog with reservations and so forth that was solely accessible via dial-up or telnet, and I used it heavily. This was about ten years ago.

I’m happy to report that the home page offers direct access to the catalog. What’s a canonical technoweenie search? Hm, how about anything published by O’Reilly?

Of course, tech books age poorly in libraries, but as an example search, that’s pretty cool. Happily, I’ve noticed that the URLs in the search app are hackable as well, so you can (for example) adjust the number of items in a page view easily. Look for the string ‘npp=10’ and hack away!

I’ve requested a number of items and look forward to getting notification they’re in. One very interesting aspect of poking aroound in the catalog is the ease with which non-book resources can be tracked down. DVDs, CDs, and videos are much easier to locate and identify than via the old green-screen system.

One interesting aspect is the apparent relative paucity of search-and-sort parameters for non-book items. Despite no clear place to search on, for example, a director’s name, I found that you can enter that in the KEYWORDS section and that will often work fine, as long as you also limit by media.

Anyway, I’m happy to see this.

Interestingly, I called the central library to see if they’d implemented WiFi yet. It’s on the table but has not been finalized, apparently. That seems a bit crazy, to me – I mean, they already have the network and the internet access, so why not allocate $200 to each branch for access points? I mena, that’s enough for each branch PLUS relacements for a couple of years!

As a donation-based project, this particualr thing could be funded, imagine, quite rapidly. Not that I’m setting it up or anything, but I count thirty branches. Let’s assume that the project would have to supply a hub to plug the AP in as well. $200 is still more than enough; over Xmas I helped my cousin in LA pick up a Netgear AP that included four ethernet jacks for under $30 new at Fry’s.

There are 29 branches. Even if a hardware manufacturer was not persuaded to simply donate the hardware (cough Michael or Steve cough) at that $200 figure I made up it’s a total of $5800 in hardware costs to at least provide minimal wireless access at each branch. That’s the cost of three mid-range PCs.

There is no reasonable excuse for the libraries to not offer this service.

3 thoughts on “Liberry been berry berry good to me

  1. We built the CH Library and we told them to install locks on the restrooms, but they didn’t, because they wanted instead to call the police every time there was a problem, so the SPD would realize how much more they need to watch that particular area.
    Their plan backfired because the police simply don’t have the time to bust every kid in Capitol Hill for shooting up.
    And don’t you find it interesting that this problem was reported in the P-I? I mean, is it really that newsworthy that a public restroom in Capitol Hill needs to be locked?

  2. That’s interesting!

    I love libraries, but I have a low opinoin of some of the decisions made at the administrative level for the SPL – such as the twice-annual system-wide closures, which extend to the web site.

    The library system here is granted a degree of leeway that is inappropriate for a public entity, and the passive-aggressive quality of the rationale you cite reflects my opinion.

  3. heh – they had major problems at the University of Hawaii library because of – get this – glory holes in the men’s room!

    Actually, I’m kind of surprised that isn’t a problem in Capital Hill

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