TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Library’s launch of a link connecting it to a statewide resource sharing system came just in time for Kaleigh Winchell.
The Wayne State University graduate student recently completed her course work and hopes to complete most of the research for her thesis from home in Traverse City.
“There are some (materials) I can use from TADL, for other papers,” said Winchell, an art history student whose thesis is on Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series. “But most of the things I need are really specific books and some are French language books that I have to get from other libraries.”
Enter MeLCat, the Michigan eLibrary Catalog. The statewide library catalog and materials delivery service allows TADL cardholders to search and request books and other materials from more than 400 libraries.
Connecting to the service has been a “major priority” since she became TADL director in 2009, said Metta Lansdale. But first the library had to make changes to its technology, including cleaning up its “messy” online catalog and transitioning to RFID technology and self-service for things like circulation, inventory management and book processing.
The library “soft-launched” the MeLCat link in September but officially launched Oct. 22, said TADL marketing and communications manager Kristen Talaga. By Oct. 28, the library had received 300 requests for items through the system from borrowers all over the state and sent out 1,000 requests by TADL patrons for items from other libraries.
Participating MeLCat libraries include public, school, academic and “special” libraries, plus the Library of Michigan, which developed MeLCat.
Lansdale said the system will be especially helpful to people like artists, historians, students and seekers of more specialized and esoteric information not available in TADL’s collection. Popular novels and other items published in the last six months are not available for request.
“Now we can take advantage of the wonderful collections that have been built at universities around the state, like the religious materials, sermons and church histories at Concordia College,” she said. “I like to scan the shelves every once in a while to see what people are requesting. I’m seeing old children’s books, I’m seeing localized histories in Michigan’s communities.”
Glen Lake Community Library joined MeLCat in 2011 and gets as many requests for CDs as it does for books by unestablished authors the library doesn’t have room to shelve, said director David Diller.
“We’ve sent things to the U.P. and every other part of the state. One of the odder requests came from a guy who lives way up in the U.P. who is obviously a very serious Deadhead. He discovered we had one of these more obscure Grateful Dead titles,” Diller said.
First-time users need to log in to their TADL account to see their personal MeLCat ID number, Talaga said. Then they can search the system using the MeLCat button on the TADL catalog page.
Requested materials will be delivered to the TADL location of choice in seven to 10 days.
Winchell said the MeLCat system saves her two or three trips a month to libraries downstate. Currently she has books on loan from the Otsego County Library, Calvin College and Central Michigan University.
“It’s so helpful,” she said. “I get an email notification every time a book comes in, which is great because I don’t have to keep stopping or calling to ask if my book is in.”