Public library consortium improves access to resources and meets provincial accessibility standards with EBSCO Discovery Service

County of Simcoe Library Cooperative


Located in Ontario, Canada, the County of Simcoe Library Cooperative (SCLC) includes 14 public libraries with 29 branches that serve a population of nearly 300,000. Of the 14 libraries, 10 use SirsiDynix Enterprise as their online public access catalogue and website. In June 2014, in order to meet a government accessibility mandate, SCLC redesigned the 10 library websites and implemented EBSCO Discovery Service, a powerful research tool that allows users to search a library’s collection using a single search box.

Since implementing the EDS API with SirsiDynix Enterprise, the number of search sessions across all 10 library websites has skyrocketed. In 2014, the number of sessions rose to 132,410 from a mere 12,640 sessions in 2013. In addition, SCLC received a Public Libraries Award for Innovation from Ontario’s Minister of Culture.

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According to Chief Librarian Gayle Hall, even though most of the SCLC libraries shared an ILS, the library websites varied in quality and ease-of-use.

“Library patrons had to go several places for databases, another place for the catalogue, another place for the website, and another place for the e-books,” Hall explained, adding that overall usage was low. “Unless you have one interface that allows patrons to go one place to look, they get frustrated.”

Since the Ontario government had mandated that all provincial websites maintain certain standards of accessibility, Hall knew she had to find an affordable solution.

“Our libraries are funded municipally, and because the funding varies, there was not a lot of money to be able to meet these standards,” she said. “But we had a deadline to meet.”


Improved Access

In 2013, the 10 libraries collectively applied for a federal grant that would enable them to revamp their websites to meet accessibility standards. The Cooperative purchased SirsiDynix Enterprise for the libraries and hired a design company to build a website template that would be compatible with the ILS.

Under the direction of Hall and library CEOs, the design firm produced a template that offered a consistent look and feel, yet allowed libraries to customize site links and branding. The new design also improved accessibility for patrons; for example, most of the library websites now include BrowseAloud, a feature that offers speech, reading, and translation support for website users.

Next came the EDS implementation. Pulling EDS content into a library website is easy with the EDS API. The library website passes the user’s search parameters to the EDS API and then presents the EDS results on the library website in a way that is formatted and styled to maintain the look and feel established by the home page template.

“There was a setup in Enterprise specifically for EDS, so it was easy to do,” Hall said. “The partnership between EBSCO and SirsiDynix sold it for me. I knew I could implement it.”

Customization & Branding

Essa Public Library is one of the 10 libraries in SCLC that has updated its website. Like the home pages of its sister libraries, Essa’s home page features three columns that librarians have customized to meet the specific needs of their patrons. The left and right columns link patrons to other sections of the library website. The middle column lists coming events and displays rotating images that promote the library’s programs and services. (See Promotion section below for more on this feature.)

At the top of the page is the search box, and the default search returns “Everything” related to the keywords. Users who search “Everything” can toggle between all search results and those from EDS only. Patrons can also conduct more granular searches using the drop-down menu. They can elect to search only the library catalogue, e-books and audiobooks, the library website, databases via EDS, or documents in PDF format. In all views, the left-hand panel contains limiters to help users further narrow their searches.


To help SCLC libraries promote their collections, programs and services, Hall purchased LibraryAware, a web-based tool from NoveList. LibraryAware makes it easy to incorporate library content, both books and e-resources, into social media posts, image carousels, and printed marketing materials, such as flyers, brochures, and bookmarks.

The middle column on all recently designed SCLC library pages includes a “What’s New” widget, featuring a carousel of rotating images. The images, created in LibraryAware, promote library events and programs such as children’s story time and book club meetings.

“Each library customizes the widget with images for what is happening in their libraries,” Hall said. “Ramara Township is very excited about it. They’re using LibraryAware for all sorts of stuff.”

Benefits & Results

Since launching Enterprise, EDS and the new library websites in 2014, SCLC has seen library online use increase dramatically. In fact, the number of sessions rose to 132,410 from a mere 12,640 sessions in 2013.

“Libraries are finding that there is a lot more traffic to their websites because of the new interface,” Hall said, adding that the libraries were recognized with a Public Libraries Award for Innovation from Ontario’s Minister of Culture. “Everybody likes the new websites. They’re clean; they’re easy to maneuver. Patrons like the idea that they can search everything.”

Hall presented SCLC’s implementation at the last meeting of the SirsiDynix Users Group of Ontario, and several libraries were interested in the EDS integration.

“Over the years, I’ve had a really good relationship with the staff at EBSCO, and I was thrilled that they have now partnered with SirsiDynix,” Hall said. “These products improve access, accessibility and functionality, further moving our library services into the digital space."

"Patrons like the idea that they can search everything."

-Gayle Hall, Chief Librarian, County of Simcoe Library Cooperative

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