The Michigan eLibrary: A Statewide Gateway to Library Materials

The references in this piece to Illinois are my comments. The speakers never mentioned Illinois.

Anne Donohue and Debbi Schaubman of the Michigan Library Consortium spoke today on the new developments at the Michigan eLibrary, commonly known as MeL. Begun as a gopher at the University of Michigan in 1993, the web site has gone through many phases and now has several important services for the people of Michigan. The newest are MeLCat, a statewide library catalog, and MeLDelivery, a statewide delivery service. MeL also has a new user-friendly design.

Though I reside in Illinois, I have been using the Reference Desk at MeL for years; as a reference librarian I have answered numerous reference questions with its links to free web sources. I always look on the MeL Databases with envy; the Michigan State Library provides many more databases for its residents than the Illinois State Library and makes them easier to access. Illinois and other states should take note.

Donohue and Schaubman were proud of the new design, which includes a new federated search box. The results of this search point to both open access and authentication access resources; Michigan residents can use their drivers license numbers or library card numbers to get into the resources that require authentication; parents can set up MyMel accounts for their children to give them access.

The speakers spent much of their time discussing MeLCat, which is still adding libraries. Illinois is actually ahead of Michigan in the development of a statewide library catalog, but the Michigan model looks a little friendlier and shows status on most items. Building MelCat has given the state the opportunity to go into many smaller rural libraries and teach computer skills to the library staffs. Residents can get into MeLCat and place holds on items to be delivered to their home libraries.

In the near future, the Michigan Library Consortium will be expanding services on MyMeL and continuing to add libraries to MeLCat. Its focus groups continue to look for more services for Michigan residents.