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
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
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
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
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
"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
"Research librarians are investigators or detectives," she said.
"When you're using 24/7, you're getting librarians who are trained to
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.