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I love, love, love this next entry.  Probably that’s because one of my favorite things to do for years and years has been simply to go into a library and browse.  Whether it’s my hometown library I’ve been going to since before I remember, or a new library in a new city, it’s just fun to look around and see what they’re displaying.  And often I like to browse for things I’ll not necessarily check out: I’ll visit the teen section – they have the most intriguing covers! (and OK, I’ll admit, I still like to read YA lit sometimes), even the children’s section – talk about a walk down memory lane! (and, totally unrelated, but doesn’t this page make you want to be a kid again so you have a reason to read all those books?!)

Anyway, the Book Carousel is basically a really snazzy-looking way to browse covers online.  The Cambridge, ON library developed it (hey, didn’t I mention them around here earlier?  Way to go, Cambridge, for continuing to develop your sensible Web 2.0 tools!).  On this New Materials page , click on the purple eye (or click the orange button to subscribe to an RSS of this genre — another nice Web 2.0-y way to update patrons who want it) to view a neat graphic display of book covers.  Each book cover (with title and author above) is linked to the catalogue record with more information (though it’s not obvious there’s a link there, until you hover your mouse over the cover).  One can scroll through all the covers available, in sets of four, by clicking the right or left arrow buttons – though the arrows were not immediately obvious to me the first time I looked at this service; Cambridge could improve this service by making those buttons more prominent.

For a public library with an interest in increasing people’s reading for pleasure and edification, this is a wonderful way to reach people who, because of schedules or time commitments, rarely set foot in the library.  Many library OPACs already allow people to do all kinds of library-related stuff from their home Internet connection – search for materials, place holds, renew items, etc.  Practically, people who just want reading or viewing material only have to set foot in a library to check them out.  But it’s widely known that cover art can add (or subtract) vastly from a book’s content and “shelf appeal” – why else would publishers spend so much time and effort on covers, as SFF author Laura Resnick writes about here?  The Cambridge library is logically building on its patrons’ knowledge and usage of the computerized-library, adding to its existing Web 2.0 tools, and it now can take advantage of that cover art and reproduce that felicitous library experience of browsing all those lovely book covers, on the web.

However, (my only gripe, I promise) for such a cool tool, it’s not the most obvious to find from their homepage.  On the day I visited their homepage (Dec. 2), I went to at least three or four other likely-seeming places before I found the right place, as I’ve pointed out on the screenshot.  The link to the New Materials page is in rather small print at the bottom of the page — shouldn’t we advertise your cool tool a little more?

(Thanks to Susie and the bulletin board postings at this website for links to this and a few other library mashups I’m featuring here – Talis sponsored a competition, Mashing Up the Library 2006, and that discussion board was where many posted their entries.  Unfortunately a lot of the links are defunct now, but look around if you’re curious.)