Over 200 public libraries in four countries, worldwide, currently use a BiblioCommons OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). BiblioCore, the online catalog, integrates with existing Integrated library systems (ILSs) and creates a complete OPAC replacement that features intuitive searching, account integration, new tools for discovery, eBook integration, library staff recommendations, and the ability to create a community around the library collection.
Other services include a mobile suite with BiblioMobile; the ability to manage web sites that have dynamic web options with BiblioCMS (content management system); to integrate summer reading microsites with Biblio Summer Sites; to make public library resources available through school library catalogs with BiblioSchools; to integrate ebook lending and buying within the catalog with BiblioDigital; and to integrate event listings straight into the catalog with BiblioEvents. There are more options, modules, and improvements being worked on all the time.
BiblioCommons began not as a software company, but as a nonprofit youth literacy initiative. Co-founder Beth Jefferson was interested in the ways teens were using emerging technologies to engage with popular culture and wondered how youth literacy could be improved if a social context around reading could be established online. The perF!nk Project (Perceive. Feel. Think) that emerged won a national award from the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and began attracting broader attention – particularly, from libraries.
From perF!nk to BiblioCommons
Asking questions, the team began to explore the potential leverage of the public library’s online catalog for the end user. Could they create conversation and engagement where people already were, in the library’s web catalog?
The perf!nk project caught the attention of The Ontario Library Association, which committed research funding. Over the next 18 months, BiblioCommons conducted surveys and more than 100 one-on-one interviews in four library systems to explore the possibilities for re-envisioning the library catalog.Three Canadian provincial agencies were sufficiently impressed with the research and resulting vision to fund prototypes, and ultimately to purchase advance subscriptions. Their early commitments enabled BiblioCommons to build the envisioned services and roll them out to interested libraries in those jurisdictions.
From beta to production
Following 18 months of user research and a year-long beta test, with six libraries, as well as ongoing research and feedback, BiblioCommons created prototypes of the BIblioCore catalog and improved scalability, usability, and configurability before rolling out to broader audiences.
BiblioCommons re-launched its re-designed services to several large systems in late 2009.
Searching and rating
The basic BiblioCore search box is built with automatic relevance ranking algorithms, data mapping, faceted searches, natural language detection, and a "did-you-mean?" functionality to make searching the online public library catalog easier and more intuitive. Advanced searches allow a user to narrow down their query by format, location, availability, topic, publication date, tag, and more.
Users that are logged into the library system can add tags to books, ratings, age recommendations, book reviews, and more. Anything added to the BiblioCore catalog can be seen by other users on the BiblioCommons system, making the library catalog a larger, more diverse and more robust online community.
Users can also create shelves with which to group books; create "completed", "in progress", and "for later" shelves to manage and sequence their reading progress; and follow other library users for book recommendations and reviews.
BiblioCommons also offers other modules and products that work with BiblioCore for public libraries.
- Biblio Summer Sites is a suite of micro-sites that can be added to a library catalog to create summer reading groups for kids, teens, and adults. The sites have customizable avatars, badges that can be won or awarded, reading goals, reading challenges, and quizzes.
- BiblioWeb is a complete content management system for library websites.
- BiblioCore replaces all the traditional functionality of the library's online catalog and integrates it with discovery and interactive experiences that library customers experience daily elsewhere on the web. It replaces the traditional library OPAC (online public access catalog).
- BiblioDigital is an eBook platform that allows libraries to deliver eBooks through the catalog, instead of through a separate third-party website. It is designed to work with any eBook vendor, so that libraries can showcase their books in one interface, and users can access and read their eBooks through a library-centric environment. BiblioDigital went live in beta in May 2013.
- BiblioEvents integrates event creation and program features into the library catalog.
- BiblioMobile is offered as a module for BiblioCore and is a suite of apps for Android, iPhone, and other mobile browsers. It creates a mobile-friendly library catalog and website for users on all platforms.
- BiblioSchools makes the entire resources of the public library available to school students and educators through the school library catalog. Currently, it supports the Destiny ILS by Follett.
Libraries that are using BiblioCommons
As of April 2014, BiblioCommons has been adopted by over 200 libraries in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, and has over five million registered BiblioCommons users.
The second library network to launch BiblioCommons was the Perth County Information Network in Ontario, which includes Perth East Public Library, Stratford Public Library, and West Perth Public Library. The library network went live with BiblioCommons in August 2009 and officially launched in October 2009.
Since 2011, the Brooklyn Public Library and New York Public Library have been using the BiblioCommons catalog, and other libraries using the system include: the Boston Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Christchurch City Libraries, Edmonton Public Library, Multnomah County Public Library, Ottawa Public Library, Princeton Public Library, Seattle Public Library, Vancouver Public Library, Yarra Plenty Regional Library, and many others.
King County Library System went live with the BiblioCore catalog in December 2013, and the Chicago Public Library system went live with both the BiblioCore catalog and the redesigned BiblioCMS (Content Management System) in April 2014.
BiblioCommons collects some personally identifiable information, such as library card number, from users who access their library account from the service. BiblioCommons secures and encrypts all personal information provided by the user during the registration process, Bibliocommons does not share information or activity with ad networks or other entities that are not directly involved in the library's services, and BiblioCommons does not store any information regarding a user's borrowing data, book history, or recently returned items. Nonetheless, the fact that BiblioCommons collects personally identifiable information at all has raised concerns, which persisted into 2015.
- Oder (July 19, 2008). "BiblioCommons Emerges: 'Revolutionary'; Social Discovery System for Libraries". Library Journal.
- "<Index". Knowledge Ontario. Archived from the original on 2009-04-17.
- "Pop Culture is Hook for Teen Readers" (PDF). The Toronto Star.
- "Title???". The Beacon Herald.
- "New York Public Library Press Release". Infodocket. June 21, 2011.
- "Participating BiblioCommons Libraries". BiblioCommons.
- "How We Work: Our Platform". Bibliocommons.
- "BiblioCommons US Privacy Statement". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Greiner, Tony (Guest Columnist) (July 12, 2013). "Hold that book, but you're risking your privacy: Guest opinion". The Oregonian.
- Warfield, Peter (Guest Columnist) (Jan 15, 2015). "Privacy concerns abound over BiblioCommons: Guest opinion". The Bay Area Reporter.