Edgartown library pushes CLAMS
In order to promote what it believes is an underutilized resource, the Edgartown library wants to educate patrons about the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing System (CLAMS), a system easily browsed on line at a home computer. The Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs libraries also belong to CLAMS.
Patrons of the three down-Island libraries can also browse the catalogs of their own libraries on line, but CLAMS (where else but on Cape Cod would the acronym come out CLAMS?) is a consortium of 30 public libraries on the Cape and islands, which share 1.4 million print, music, and film resources. Any patron of a participating library can obtain a CLAMS membership and go on line to browse the virtual catalog in his own home. The browser can order a book, a film, or a CD to be delivered to Edgartown, or to either of the other down-Island libraries, usually in a day or two.
Edgartown library director Felicia Cheney tells The Times that she is sure that Edgartown patrons do not use the resource as much as Cape residents do, simply because they do not know about it. Accordingly, the library is using its newly improved web site (edgartownlibrary.org) to teach borrowers how to use CLAMS and to help them sign up.
Edgartownlibrary.org has a CLAMS instructional video users can watch on line, a one-page "cheat sheet" to lead them through the process, and a downloadable application form. New borrowers will have to take the form to the library to choose an official pin number, however.
Ms. Cheney credits Nis Kildegaard and web-designer Heather Goff for this and other innovations now on the library website.
The Edgartown library has holdings of about 40,000 items, but these resources pale in comparison with 1.4 million items in the CLAMS consortium. Moreover, Ms. Cheney says that consortium libraries cooperate in order to insure that any popular or useful volume will be found in at least one of the libraries. This insures that if an Edgartown patron sees an interesting book review or reads an interesting essay online, the chances are very good CLAMS will have that author in its database.
As an example of how the system works, Ms. Cheney points to "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini (the new book by the author of "The Kite Runner"). She says that as of Monday there were almost 700 CLAMS patrons who had requested that book. However, since CLAMS has 90 copies, it should not take long to get to the front of the queue (especially since probably quite a few patrons will get impatient and buy a copy).
The three up-Island libraries are not now members of CLAMS. They participate in the Massachusetts inter-library loan program, which works well but can be very time-consuming, according to Ebba Hierta, Chilmark library director, and Beth Kramer, West Tisbury acting co-director. Librarians must make a request to the Quincy Public Library, which administers inter-library loans for South-Eastern Massachusetts Library Services (SEMLS). SEMLS will make every effort to find the book, but delivers books only twice a week. Because a requested book might come from anywhere in the country (Ms. Hierta says she once got a book from a library in Alaska), the process sometimes takes many weeks.
Libraries in the CLAMS consortium lend books directly from library to library, often the next day. Moreover, joining CLAMS would make the up-Island libraries' catalogs accessible on line from patrons' homes, which is now the case for the down-Island libraries but not up-Island.
However, because new members pay a high entrance fee to cover start-up expenses, the price for up-Island libraries to join CLAMS, according to Ms. Kramer and Ms. Hierta, is currently prohibitive.
Gail Simundza, the new executive director of CLAMS, told The Times in a telephone interview that her board regularly reviews its fee structure. She commented that CLAMS is interested in bringing new libraries into the system in a way which would be advantageous to both CLAMS and the libraries. "Having more libraries in the system benefits all patrons," she said.
In the meantime, up-Island library patrons should know that they can get an individual CLAMS membership through any of the down-Island libraries. The first step is to obtain a library card from Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, or Vineyard Haven. The next step is to fill out a CLAMS application at that down-Island library and choose a pin number. From then on, the up-Islander can sit at his or her home computer and order library books on line from a catalog of 1.4 million items. The catch is that the borrower must designate one of the three down-Island libraries to receive the book, necessitating a trip to pick it up when it arrives.