Posted on November 30, 2015
Lesley Williams is Head of Adult Services at the Evanston Public Library (EPL) in Evanston, Illinois. In the 18 years that she has worked there, the library has continually subscribed to products from Gale. Today, as a primary “go to” resource for the library’s broad range of patrons, GVRL eBooks are instrumental in helping EPL fulfill its mission. That mission is to be the heart of the community, promoting the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens by providing open access to cultural, intellectual, technological, and informational resources. “GVRL is the only online reference book service that we’ve ever had,” says Lesley.
- Public libraries continually seek ways to improve their patrons’ library experience and boost library usage by providing high-quality, easy-to-use informational resources in myriad subject areas.
GVRL’s Diverse Resources Support Special Programs and Individual Needs
The EPL reference desk hums with busy librarians who interact with patrons in person, by e-mail, by phone, and occasionally by text message. Librarians also make presentations at the local high school or to local organizations that need reference services. For instance, the library’s Next Chapter program advises budding entrepreneurs on how start their own business. “Many people have no idea how to write a business plan,” says Lesley. “We show them how to use the GVRL Business Plans Handbook, which lays out the process from start to finish. GVRL also has incredibly helpful resources to help with financing and estimating markets and startup costs.”
EPL librarians and visitors turn to General OneFile, Gale’s largest general interest periodical resource, on a daily basis, and Lesley says many patrons use it from home as well. OneFile includes more than 12,000 titles with nearly 30 years of coverage that puts approximately 80 million records, updated daily, at users’ fingertips with a single search query.
The library’s ongoing book discussion program relies on Gale’s Contemporary Literary Criticism and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. “Literary Criticism Online is phenomenal,” says Lesley. “I post guidelines on the blog about how to get into the collection from home, or sometimes copy articles and send them out to everybody in the group. The articles offer different perspectives on the books we discuss as well as rich background that puts the novels in historical context.”
Lesley can rattle off the names of many of the library’s other special Gale collections, which run the gamut of topics. She says Gale’s scholarly history and social science encyclopedias—such as the Encyclopedia of Religion, the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, and the Dictionary of American History—are used on a regular basis. Other collections include Gardening, Landscape, and Horticulture; the Home, Hobbies, and Entertainment Gateway; Home Improvement; and Hospitality, Tourism, and Leisure.
Intuitive Interface—Powerful Search and Technology Features
Ease of use is one benefit that sets GVRL apart from other resources and makes it so popular. “GVRL allows people to be self-sufficient,” says Lesley. “Compared to similar products, it’s very easy and seamless to use. There are no complicated log on procedures. GVRL pulls together material about a topic from numerous different reference books instead of requiring users to search each resource separately. It’s easy to find articles, save them, and share them by email with other students or co-workers.” Search results can be sorted by article title, by source, by relevance, or chronologically. Lesley also notes the appeal of GVRL’s technology features. “It’s designed to allow easy posting on social media, it offers translations of documents into other languages, and it even enables users to listen to text-to-speech versions of the articles.”
Lesley appreciates how simple it is to create customized collections, which, like EPL’s other programs, enhances the value of the library in the eyes of its users. “We pulled out the GVRL business sources and put a separate link to them on our business page. We also did it for other popular topics such as health and literature.”
Given GVRL’s depth, breadth, and search features, it’s no surprise that Lesley and her staff are proactive about recommending it. “One Senior Studies project required each student to find out everything they could about a historical figure. We always suggested that they start with GVRL because its varied resources provided almost everything they needed to know, from outfits that people wore in a particular period to criticisms of an author’s writings to social and economic background. The teachers and students loved it, and it got them all to think about using the library, and GVRL, on a regular basis.”
She continues, “I think a big part of our success is that we work closely with students; one of our librarians works both here and at the high school. Once you show someone GVRL, they’re excited and say something like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I didn’t realize how easy it was.’”
- GVRL’s intuitive interface and powerful search features make it quick and easy for patrons to find what they need. Search results for any topic can be sorted by article title, by source, by relevance, or chronologically.
- Patrons can access GVRL from the library or from the convenience of their home computers. In addition, students can access GVRL from their high school website, which promotes engagement with their course work and encourages development of skills that they will put to good use in college and beyond.
- Librarians can tailor sets of resources from the GVRL collection to accommodate the needs of specific user groups (such as small business owners and entrepreneurs) and to facilitate searches of particularly common topics, such as health or literature.
- GVRL enables the library to offer programs that enhance the library’s value to patrons.