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24-hour service at library’s ‘fourth branch’

Molly Shore

It’s midnight and you need to know the year King John of England

signed the Magna Carta. Where do you go?

For anyone with a library card, the answer to almost any question

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is a few keystrokes away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through

the Burbank Public Library’s Web site, www.burbank.lib.ca.us.

“Our goal is to really turn this into our fourth branch because we

know that people prefer to do things from home now,” Library Services

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Director Sharon Cohen said.

For the past two years, the library has subscribed to 24/7, a

reference service offered by the Metropolitan Library Cooperative

System that is supported by federal funding and administered by the

California State Library.

According to Cohen, Burbank library patrons can chat online any

time of day or night with a librarian.

“As part of the service, we do participate in it, but it could

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also be a librarian as far away as New Zealand,” she said.

“Librarians are online covering all time periods around the world.”

In addition to getting answers in real time, the library’s Web

site offers other components, including iBistro, which allows a user

to search the library’s catalogs at any of its three branches.

“If you wake up at 3 a.m. and want to see if the latest ‘Harry

Potter’ book is in, you can do it,” Cohen said.

If the book is not available, it can be reserved online, she

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added.

Library users can do research through the Internet’s NewsBank,

allowing them to retrieve information from English and Spanish

language newspapers, Cohen said.

InfoTrak, another online service offered by the library, has the

same retrieval capabilities from magazines that include Time,

Newsweek, the New England Journal of Medicine, and U.S. News and

World Report, she added.

Susan Bowers, executive director of the Burbank Chamber of

Commerce, is a frequent user of what Cohen and others refer to as the

“fourth branch.”

“Actually, I used it [Monday] night,” Bowers said. “I used it to

look up a specific issue of a magazine, and the librarian told me

that the magazine was available at the Buena Vista Branch.”

Bowers said that the chamber uses the Internet service all the

time.

“Research librarians are investigators or detectives,” she said.

“When you’re using 24/7, you’re getting librarians who are trained to

find answers.”

Since the Web site went online, the library has averaged 1,650

hits per month, administrative analyst Jody Hidey said.

“Hopefully, it will increase as we add more links,” she said.


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