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Library ELF > Email and RSS Notifications for Your Libarary Material
June 25, 2005 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Library Elf is a nifty free service that tracks all of your library books. It sends you emails and/or delivers RSS notifications when your books become due, shows you a list of all books you currently have out, and lets you know when that book you wanted is available. It supports multiple cards per account, so you can track all books for the whole household. Also, do everyone in your community a favor-- see if your library is listed and, if it isn't, request that they add it.
posted by juggernautco (35 comments total)

 
Way cool! Very handy, thanks juggernautco.
posted by nickyskye at 7:23 PM on June 25, 2005


Very cool, indeed. I just signed up.
posted by event at 7:29 PM on June 25, 2005


Please excuse my paranoia and cynicism, and i honestly ask your apology, but doesn't this kinda thing just feed into the DOJ and DHS fishing expeditions of people reading 'terrorist' books?
posted by MrLint at 7:29 PM on June 25, 2005


...is a nifty free service that tracks all of your library books.
...and let's homeland security know when you check out that bin laden book?
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 7:31 PM on June 25, 2005


Maybe you guys oughta put down the doobie; you're getting a little paranoid.
posted by keswick at 7:36 PM on June 25, 2005


If Homeland Security is going to watch what you read, they don't need Library Elf.
posted by event at 7:38 PM on June 25, 2005


One can only hope that DOJ and DHS are smart enough to use flexible, simple technologies to help keep our nation safe. If someone over there sees this, they'd probably award some crony tech defense firm a four-year contract to develop a similar system that will never work.
posted by juggernautco at 7:38 PM on June 25, 2005


According to the privacy policy on their website, they don't give out information to any outside party, except by court order or if required by government investigation. So they don't fire off an alert to the Feds if you check out "suspicious" books - the Feds would have to go to them first. And yeah, I signed up.
posted by Quietgal at 7:42 PM on June 25, 2005


The Sacramento Library intentionally only tracks the books you have currently checked out. They intentionally refuse to keep patron's history to thwart any DOJ/DHS intrusion.

It is not something they advertise, and I only found out by asking to see if I had previously checked out a particular book before.
posted by Badgermann at 7:44 PM on June 25, 2005


Thanks!
posted by nostrada at 8:16 PM on June 25, 2005


This is really cool. It might have saved me many dollars in fines, if it was available for my college library. I would always forget to take books back until a week or two after the semester ended.

DPL supports it, yippee!
posted by teece at 8:18 PM on June 25, 2005


In signing up for Elf I poked around the New York Public Library site and discovered they have a "Tell your story" window to share a brief anecdote.

A random NYPL piece of info: at Donnell, my favorite public library branch in NYC they have the original stuffed animals of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger.
posted by nickyskye at 8:19 PM on June 25, 2005


Hey wait, someone has to complain about the post not being worthy for the frontpage . . .
posted by nostrada at 8:20 PM on June 25, 2005


Or, you know, you could just look at the date due slip.

Or would that be too easy?
posted by Sharktattoo at 8:23 PM on June 25, 2005


Too bad this isn't available for the Queens Public Library yet. But I do have a bookmarklet that lets me look up a book I found on Amazon at the library with a single click, and then request it via interlibrary loan. I'm not sure where I got the bookmarklet though--perhaps somebody else can fill that in. In the meantime, Amazon Lite has a function that lets you do the same thing. Select your library in the settings, and then get them to place books you find on hold for you. Very nice.
posted by muckster at 8:37 PM on June 25, 2005


Found it: the Library Lookup Project. One of my favorite web gizmos ever.
posted by muckster at 8:39 PM on June 25, 2005


If one takes out a number of items (in NYC one can take out 32 items at a time, including CDs and videos) on different days, or requests items, it can be a headache to keep track about what to return when and Elf has an organized calendar for each item's return. In addition for videos and CDs there is no fixed date slip attached but a receipt that usually falls out when one opens the case.
posted by nickyskye at 8:44 PM on June 25, 2005


Here's a relevant mefi post I found by following muckster's comment link. The most important germ of it is the Open WorldCat Program website, which has extensions for Yahoo! and Google toolbars as well as the Firefox browser for "locating library-owned materials on the Web". Good stuff.
posted by juggernautco at 9:23 PM on June 25, 2005


Just a couple of points. The sites currently only works for those libraries that use the Dynix system. Your library may not.

Badgermann: I don't know about the Sacramento Library, but I can attest that some libraries have that policy, but the software has not been altered to eliminate all such patron information. It those cases it is possible to track the last 3 or so patrons who checked out a book. That is done so that if a patron returns a book and says "All the curse words have been crossed out." the staff can see who was the previous patron who checked out the book.
posted by ?! at 9:36 PM on June 25, 2005


Badgermann, thanks for the update. I use the Sacramento library constantly - a wonderful collection and their web services are already quite rich, and will be even better when I can use them with this system.
posted by luriete at 10:31 PM on June 25, 2005


Sharktattoo: Or, you know, you could just look at the date due slip.

Or would that be too easy?


My library doesn't have date due slips inside the book, we get them printed out separately. And I always lose them. Besides which, if I get notices via RSS I don't have to be always remembering to manually check my library books (seeing as I check Bloglines every day).

(by a weird coincidence, I signed up with LibraryELF about 10 minutes before I saw this thread).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:40 AM on June 26, 2005


This gets me thinking:

What if there was a library that existed entirely online which operated much the same way that Netflix does? Request a list of books and, when you return one, they'll send you a new one in exchange. No due dates, no late fees. Only a monthly charge (probably enough to cover shipping and the cost of a book, should it never be returned).

On the other hand, I can't think of any advantages this has over visiting the public library (aside from selection in some cases).
posted by Jon-o at 1:19 AM on June 26, 2005


Or, you know, you could just look at the date due slip

They're no help to a serious library user. At one point, I had near to 100 items out, a fair number of which I'd had checked out for more than 3 years, so looking at the due-date stamp would have been an exercise in futility. As it was, I just had to remember to auto-renew all my books every semester.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:04 AM on June 26, 2005


It's a cute idea, but it probably won't replace my time-tested "write it on the fridge" method.

ROU_Xenophobe, doesn't the library get a little ticked when you have books out for 3 years?
posted by JanetLand at 7:38 AM on June 26, 2005


What if there was a library that existed entirely online which operated much the same way that Netflix does? Request a list of books and, when you return one, they'll send you a new one in exchange. No due dates, no late fees. Only a monthly charge (probably enough to cover shipping and the cost of a book, should it never be returned).

Things vaguely similar to this is creeping in. I've worked in an extremely peripheral way on one example, the Massachusetts Virtual Catalog, which allows you to search a large number of libraries and library cosortia (public and academic) all at once, and then have a book delivered to your home library. It is functionally one "virtual library" operating with "branches" all over the state. It's really useful for someone living in a smaller town, because you get access to items in the UMass system and a lot of the Boston libraries, including the pretty huge Boston Public Library.

There are still due dates and overdues and such, but those can't really go away when you're dealing with a lot of out-of-print items. And libraries won't exist as purely virtual spaces for a long time, because they have a lot of other functions beyond places with books.
posted by nflorin at 7:45 AM on June 26, 2005


that Library lookup thing is wonderful, muckster! thanks.

(i don't trust the Elf tho, esp after hearing that libraries have already given info to the feds--our reading should stay private no matter what--putting it all online would defeat that.)

related: the NYPL now has downloadable audiobooks too. (but no Mac support i think)
posted by amberglow at 8:09 AM on June 26, 2005


Well, if I seem a little bitter and/or cynical, I've got good cause. I'm the access services manager for a university library, and over the years the excuses I've heard for why books are late runs into the thousands. Now I just tell them: The due date is in the book.
posted by Sharktattoo at 8:47 AM on June 26, 2005


amberglow: (i don't trust the Elf tho, esp after hearing that libraries have already given info to the feds--our reading should stay private no matter what--putting it all online would defeat that.)

There seems to be some confusion here over what exactly Library Elf does.

If you use a library that has electronic record keeping (e.g. Dynix) then it is almost certain that your reading is "all online" already. That is to say, your records are stored are computers that are on the Internet. That is NOT to say that your records are public, however.

Library Elf does not make your records public, either. They generate an RSS feed that is specific to you and you only; the only way somebody else can view your RSS feed is if you give them the URL.
posted by event at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2005


doesn't the library get a little ticked when you have books out for 3 years?

They never acted ticked. Anyone who wanted them could always recall them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:19 AM on June 26, 2005


As a library patron I love Library Elf. My parents read/listen to a lot of books and I look after their cards, plus my wife's. Between the 4 cards there are about 18 items signed out right now and about 60 active holds. It was a chore to look after all of these items.

As a librarian, as usual I have to ask the question why can my Integrated Library System not do this but a third party can?

If they had this when I was finishing off my graduate degree I would have saved quite a bit of money in fines. At my university, as a grad student I was liable to have 3 different due dates, 3 weeks, 4 weeks or 4 months.

Seeing as no one has date stamped a book in years, those stupid thermal slips get lost pretty damn easily, and are not too helpful when you have so much material out.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2005


I figure that my overdue fines help support my library.

Though I think it is rather rude that they only send me an email overdue notification 7 days after the book is due.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:19 AM on June 26, 2005


Here at the Eugene Public Library (Eugene, Oregon) we would definitely not participate in such a service because of both security and, more importantly, privacy reasons.

First of all to enable any outside source to poll any information from our ILS server, we would have to enable the Z39.50 protocol to be able to pass in through our firewall to our server. Many libraries enable this protocol to be able to access their server from the "outside" to enable websites to show which libraries have particular items. Assuming the firewall is set up properly, then allowing access to such information is secure and does not allow the chance for any private information to be accessed.

In order to allow the Libarary Elf service to work, not only would a library have to allow the Z39.50 protocol through their firewall, but also enable their ILS software to allow personal data to be accessed via Z39.50 from outside the firewall. By doing so, all information about what items a patron currently has out and, if the library keeps such data, what items a patron has checked out in the past, would be easily accessible for anyone who is seeking such information.

It would not be difficult for a hacker or a government agency to "sniff" the Z39.50 protocol data and capture patron names, barcode numbers, and passwords/pin numbers. With this information it would be extremely easy to track personal information pertaining to what a patron has checked out.
posted by potuncle at 12:22 PM on June 26, 2005


potuncle: to enable any outside source to poll any information from our ILS server, we would have to enable the Z39.50 protocol to be able to pass in through our firewall

Uh...or they could just log in as you. Which is, in fact, what they do.
posted by event at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2005


Uh...or they could just log in as you.

Meaning "you" as the library patron, not you, the Z39.50 expert.

Or in my case at the Multnomah Country Library, me.
posted by turbodog at 3:37 PM on June 26, 2005


Eh, I set up my library co-op's system to send out e-mails before books were due years ago. You've been able to see what books you have out (and even renew them!) online for years and years. This is very old news.

It also only works on Dynix systems. Dynix was just bought by Sirsi. Which ought to be interesting, at least.

As a public library co-op system administrator, I'd rather cut off my right arm than send my patron data to another system not controlled by library people. I've got enough problems with patrons who insist that, since we are a governmental entity, we are passing everything on to the FBI. Then there are the security issues. And the privacy issues - privacy policies can change.
posted by QIbHom at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2005


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