WYOMISSING, Pa. — Two Penn State University Libraries employees at Berks Thun Library, Penn State Berks, have been awarded the American Library Association’s Emerging Technologies Section 2020 Best Emerging Technology Application (BETA) Award, which recognizes a technology application that directly benefits library users.
Corey Wetherington, open and affordable course content coordinator, and Scott Wagner, a part-time staff member, were chosen for developing, testing, deploying and sharing an open-source stacks maintenance software program. The application, ShelfReader, improves patrons’ ability to browse effectively and locate specific call numbers.
Shelf reading, the process of checking for improperly shelved books, helps to maintain proper order in a library collection. It also helps patrons and staff find materials and reduces the likelihood that books will be tagged as missing.
“Frequent browsing can lead to a high number of lost and missing items, so shelf reading is an imperative,” Wetherington said. “Since there weren’t really any software aids available to help facilitate the process, we decided to figure out how we might design one.”
Wetherington and Wagner set out to design a web application that would solve two problems they identified: (1) improve shelf reading accuracy for collections with Library of Congress call numbers, and (2) help library employees identify metadata errors. They devised a comprehensive algorithm for sorting complex call numbers, which forms the basis for the software, then published a journal article on the topic in the journal Information Technology and Libraries.
The ShelfReader software was designed and coded to work interactively with the University Libraries systems to perform other inventory control tasks in addition to shelf reading.
“We’ve made it available for free via an open license to any other libraries who might wish to adapt it to their own collections,” Wetherington added. It is accessible at https://shelfreader.com, with code available on GitHub.
Now in its second year, the BETA Award, which includes a $3,000 prize, is sponsored by Chatstaff and LibraryH3lp.