A Library Without Walls: HCPL's eBranch Brings the Library to You
A lot of people when they think of libraries think of ivy-covered buildings and grandmotherly staff wearing their reading glasses like necklaces. Fewer people perhaps think of fiber optic cables and cyber-librarians. Harris County Public Library combines both ideas in its eBranch. Customers get the personalized service of the traditional library model with online convenience.
As the name suggests eBranch can be thought of as a typical branch library, but one that can’t be found on any map. Instead it is as close as the nearest laptop, smartphone or tablet.
Almost any library service that customers can find at their local branch can now be found online--any time they need it. “EBranch offers online services to HCPL customers 24/7/365,” says eBranch Librarian, Grace Lillevig.
If this sounds impersonal, it’s not. The personalized service and expertise that HCPL customers have come to expect is right there on the website. Free services available from eBranch include:
- Reference librarians available all day, everyday via QuestionPoint 24/7 Chat and the Ask A Librarian email service.
- 14,000 eBook and eAudio titles that can be checked out on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Nook or Android device wherever there’s an internet connection.
- A wide array of online databases like World Book Encyclopedia, Morningstar Investment Research Center, Chilton’s Auto Repair Library, Medline, and Mango Languages to name just a few.
- Book Hunters: reading recommendations straight to your email inbox from HCPL’s expert staff tailored to fit your particular tastes and interests.
- Topical blogs by HCPL staff in every genre of fiction, as well as movies, audiobooks and websites.
- Special teen and kids websites offering homework help, animated book reviews, games and more.
- The Bookmyne app that allows you to find the nearest library, search the HCPL catalog and place requests right from your Apple iPad or iPhone. (An app for Android devices is in development).
- Facebook and Twitter pages that keep you up with library happenings and other interesting stuff right on your wall or feed.
EBranch’s roster of services continues to grow. It has moved into the world of social networking, “We are always exploring ways to expand eServices beyond the website,” says Lillevig. “Facebook, Twitter and Yelp! just widen the avenues of interaction between the library and its customers enjoyed in the traditional brick-and-mortar version.”
Of course, when you want to leisurely browse the shelves, meet friends or just relax in a friendly atmosphere, Harris County Public Library’s twenty-six neighborhood branches will always be there for you.