August 1, 2014

New Apps Bring OPAC Functionality to Library Facebook Pages

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Recently released apps from ChiliFresh and SirsiDynix allow library OPACs and Facebook to play nice together. Both apps integrate OPAC functionality into library Facebook pages, enabling patrons to search the catalog, place holds, log into their accounts, and pay fines — all from within Facebook.

Bringing OPAC functionality to the ubiquitous Facebook has a clear value, according to Scott Johnson, the president and CEO of ChiliFresh. “The library is encouraging a ‘friendship’ with the users on their Facebook page, but once the user gets there, there is very little to see or do,” Johnson said. “Now, the main Internet presence of the library is in the same place that every one of their users are spending their time,” he said.

The Chilifresh app went live the first week of February, and it is free to libraries that are already subscribers to the company’s Connections social networking suite. Johnson said ChiliFresh is in the process of making the Facebook app live for those subscribers (about 250).

The ChiliFresh app also allows users to write and post book reviews using the company’s Reviews Engine, which the company started offering about four years ago and which allows patrons to read and write reviews into the OPAC.

King County Library's Facebook page now provides access to the library's OPAC thanks to a new app from ChiliFresh.

“Because we provide the patron-generated content in the library’s catalog, we simply bring that content to the Facebook app as well,” Johnson said.

The pricing for the Reviews Engine is based on the number of physical locations that a library has, and pricing for the Connections suite is based on the library organization’s annual circulation.

The Jessamine County Public Library in Nicholasville, KY, already is a subscriber to both services, which together cost the library about $1800 a year, according to David Powell, the circulation manager. So, as an existing customer, the Facebook app was free, which made Powell happy.

“We got it installed in February and we were one of the first ones,” Powell said. “I wrote them and asked them ‘How much?’ and it was a bonus so I couldn’t be happier. It’s doing exactly what we wanted,” he said.

Johnson said that ChiliFresh, which is headquartered in Kansas City, KS, has a working relationship with all the major ILS providers, including SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces, Evergreen, Polaris, and others.

SirsiDynix has a similar app, called Social Library, which went beta in November 2011 and live on January 18. It now is installed on about 50 library Facebook pages, according to Dain Berrett, the technical product manager for SirsiDynix. Pricing is based on a library’s size.

The SirsiDynix app has the same capabilities — lets library users search, place holds, view, rate, discuss and share library materials all within Facebook — and it works with SirsiDynix Horizon, Symphony, and Enterprise.

“SirsiDynix Social Library allows libraries to stay in the minds of their users even when they are actively using Facebook,” Berrett said. “With more than 800 million people worldwide already exchanging information on Facebook, the opportunity for libraries is tremendous,” he said.

SirsiDynix has a trial promotion until the end of June which allows customers to try out the app before they buy it.

King County Library System (KCLS), in Washington, LJ’s 2011 Library of the Year, has been using ChiliFresh’s in-catalog book review service since 2007 and it was the first library to launch the ChiliFresh Facebook app.

“Our enthusiasm for the Facebook catalog is rooted in its effectiveness and the point of convenience it offers to patrons who are regular Facebook users,” said David Wasserman, KCLS’s online services coordinator, virtual library services.

KCLS has its own mobile app, KCLS To Go, which gives similar access to patrons who are smart phone and tablet users. In addition to providing in-library services and doing outreach, KCLS has been increasing its online emphasis, given that the library’s catalog website had 70.7 million hits in 2011, according to Wasserman.

Wasserman said he was not concerned that the library’s online presence might be fracturing into to many spaces.

“Ultimately, we would like to provide a more unified approach.  However, our first priority is introducing services to new and existing patron groups. The fastest way to do that is to using existing products easily available to us,” he said.

The patron base in King County is particularly tech savvy, given the proximity to many large tech companies, and that is “an invaluable source of feedback that we can use in evaluating our online services,” Wasserman said.

There is another player in this space, according to ChiliFresh’s Johnson.

“I would guess that Bibliocommons would probably consider themselves a competitor of ChiliFresh,” Johnson said, adding that there were differences.

“The biggest difference is that we work hand-in-hand with the ILS vendors to ensure complete transparency, quality integrations and value,” Johnson said. “Bibliocommons is simply replacing the ILS’s online catalog with their own version… with data scraped from the ILS’s OPAC,” he said.

Bibliocommons did not respond to a request for comment.

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Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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