Back in the days when libraries weren’t quite so busy, if I didn’t have a constant stream of questions at the reference desk, I’d get bored and start trawling the stacks for people who looked confused. I was delighted when we got a tablet computer as I no longer had to drag the patron over to a PAC or run between them and my computer for call numbers and answers. Having the internet with me at all times helped a lot when I needed to show the customer searching the art books for Van Gogh’s Starry Night how easily she could find it on Google Images, but while I could see the same catalog interface as our patrons, there wasn’t a way in to the staff side of our materials database. That put a damper on my speed as quick, powerful searches and circulation functions still had to be done from the reference desk.
So I was intrigued by three of the products in the May/June 2009 issue of Public Libraries. EnvisionWare now has a LibraryPDA(TM) that can evidently do all staff side functions (plus inventory). And for those of you with a SirsiDynix ILS, there’s Horizon PocketCirc 1.0 with functions similar to the LibraryPDA but with remote access also available, so you no longer have to write down titles and barcodes while checking out books at a school, offsite program or town event.
The third product would be great not only for visually challenged patrons, but also for commuters wanting to make effective use of travel time. ReadSpeaker works with WilsonWeb’s many full text databases and converts articles into audio for immediate listening (will wonders never cease – let’s hope all our database vendors follow suit).
Have any of you tried any of these products yet? Do they work as promised? Or have you found other ways to do check out and powerful searches on the fly? What about alternative ways of changing text into speech?