Remember books? The old-fashioned ones? You know, the ones that are made of paper and glues and ink and stuff? Well, if you’re anything like me, then you enjoy the heft of a good book in your hand and you’re a frequent visitor to your local library. Yep, the library. The brick-and-mortar one where they keep all those books and lend them out, free of charge, to anyone who comes in looking.
Chances are that your local library has moved to a computer system instead of the card catalog you learned about in first grade. And, thanks to that computer system, the Internet and a generous Australian programmer named Harold, you can now use your Mac to interact with the library in a much more convenient way.
The idea is pretty simple: your local library uses a computer to track the books you’ve checked out as well as manage their catalog. Since they make this information available over the Internet, it was simply a matter of time until someone resourceful enough found a way to access it from within an application. Harold is that guy and his simple Menu Bar application will change the way you interact with your library. Of course, different libraries use different software packages, protocols and systems, but Harold hasn’t let that stop him. His app currently supports libraries in nine different countries (including 180 in the United States) and if yours isn’t supported (mine wasn’t), just shoot him an email; Harold released an update including my local library mere hours after I contacted him.
Once you install the app and follow the directions to set it up, you get a small star-icon in your menu bar. You can use the menu to see the items you have currently checked out, sorted by due date, and it also alerts you to any requested items the library may be holding for you. As an added bonus, Library Menu can automatically create an iCal calendar which tracks your due dates and gives you appropriate reminders so you don’t incur late fees. To top it all off, the menu also gives you one-click shortcuts to your local library’s website, online catalog and item renewal pages.
Harold’s future plans for the app include his ever-growing list of supported libraries and the addition of a dashboard widget to display the information. It’s a 3 MB download that is free to try, is a Universal application and requires only Mac OS X 10.3 or later and an Internet connection.
Library Books represents the very best in Mac software: it’s a free-to-use application that does one thing very well. It’s written by a responsive, talented programmer who only asks that, if you feel like it, you drop some cash in his tip jar. There should be more programmers like Harold and more apps like Library Books. Give it a shot and donate a few bucks if you like what he’s doing.