Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Never Heard of SWAN!

Never heard of SWAN! Don’t know that we have an online catalog of our collection? Oh my gosh! Sometimes we take something so much for granted that we forget that other people may not know anything about it.

In a recent conversation with an acquaintance who is a regular library user, I discovered that not only had he never used SWAN, our online catalog, but he did not even know that it exists. He uses the library like a book store and just goes to the shelves to browse through whatever is there. He was amazed that we have an online catalog that lists every item that we own --- books, magazines, audio books, DVD’s, and CD’s -- and tells the user if the item is on the shelf, or when it is due to be returned.

Even more, SWAN (the System-Wide Automated Network) also shows you the collections of the other 79 SWAN libraries at the same time. Titles popular at one library, may not be popular at another. There is often a copy available somewhere else, if Downers Grove does not own a title or our copies are checked out. Just click on “request” in the SWAN catalog and another library’s copy will be sent to you at Downers Grove within a few days. (You can also dash over to the owning library and check the item out with your Downers Grove card, if you just can’t wait for the delivery!)

Even when titles are in high demand everywhere, you can still click on “request” to get on the waiting list. If you search for a new, popular title, you may see something like “75 requests on 53 available copies”. That means that all of the SWAN libraries combined own 53 copies of that title, and that 75 people are waiting for the title. If you click on “request” you will become the 76 person in line. With 53 copies available, it doesn’t take long to fill 76 requests. As each of those 53 copies is returned, it is sent to the next person on the waiting list at any SWAN library. (The exception is that a request at the library that owns the book is filled first, when that library’s copy is returned. This means that when Downers Grove’s copy is returned, it will go to the next Downers Grove cardholder in the waiting list, and only go to another library if no one from Downers Grove is waiting for the title.)

By the way, SWAN libraries are not all public libraries. There are several college libraries in SWAN, including Morton College and Prairie State College. Even better, Brookfield Zoo and Morton Arboretum libraries are also SWAN libraries, giving users access to their unique collections.

It is fairly easy to do a basic search of SWAN. We have placed a search box in the upper right hand corner of each page of our web site. Just for fun, try entering the word “frisbee” in the search box and clicking on “search”. In the results of your keyword search for “frisbee” you will see that that the first item listed is a DVD (note the graphic at the right side of the listing) of a movie titled “Frisbee: the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher”. The second item is a video cassette about games using Frisbees. The next several items are all books about Frisbees.

If you click on a title you will see a list of the libraries that own that specific item and whether or not it is on the shelf. Look at the buttons across the top of the screen. You can click “Read about it” to read reviews and/or summaries of the title. Note that this information is available for many, but not all of the titles in the SWAN catalog. If Downers Grove doesn’t own the title or our copies have been checked out, click on the “request” button and one of the copies that are available at other libraries will be sent to Downers Grove for you to pick up.

When you click on “request” you will be asked to enter your name, your library card bar code, and your PIN. If you don’t have a PIN, click on "what is a PIN" to find out how to create one. Once you create a PIN you will have access to your SWAN account. Your account has a number of great features, including an option to keep a reading history. But I will talk about that next week.