A couple months ago, I posted about what I saw as the strange phenomenon of readers avoiding a convenient and free method of acquiring eBooks - library eBook lending programs. In the post, I raised some of the issues with the current eLibrary models, and comments backed up these negative claims, rightly pointing out how cumbersome and often clumsy the current library systems are. Unlike me, for whom the prospect of acquiring new books in English from halfway across the world is a huge advantage, most readers saw the messiness and limited quality of these eLibraries as making it rather worthless.
So today, I'm pleased to announce (somewhat belatedly) that at least one of the three eLibraries I patron (don't judge me...) has made a tremendous step in the right direction. And surprisingly, it's the one that until now was the messiest, the most cumbersome, and the least cooperative. Northern California Digital Library, I commend you.
Up until just a couple months ago, NCDL's site was cramped, uncomfortable and extremely difficult to maneuver. This is the eLibrary I frequented least often, in large part because I could never seem to find the books I was looking for. Their search bar was practically unusable, their collection seemed mostly comprised of travel books, and all in all, it was a nightmare to use the site. So, like many readers pointed out in the comments, I just didn't.
Now as you can see (if you clicked the link...), the site is much more modern, much more clean. It's a little hard to compare without the previous look and feel (I found only two small, blurry screenshots that don't accurately portray how annoying the site used to look), but regardless: the NCDL's new site is nice. But more than just the general aesthetics, the site now has a much smoother functionality. Most importantly, it also has an excellent browsing method because for the first time, one of these three eLibraries I patron has figured out how to use filters.
This seems like the most obvious thing on the planet, right? I mean, search engines have had filters for so long now, it seems somewhat absurd that a site like an eLibrary wouldn't. And yet they don't seem to see the direct correlation between how easily patrons can find books and how much they'll, you know, check them out. The relatively limited collection is still a problem, but with these simple, easy filters, I can find those few, good books I want quickly, easily and without any unnecessary headaches. I've already seen hints on another library's site that they're going to upgrade to a similar style; here's to hoping the others follow in the NCDL's footsteps soon.