Berks County Public Library System launches new catalog system

Written by Emily Fitzpatrick Kenniston.

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For book lovers, few things can be more frustrating than wanting to search online for that perfect paperback, only to be road blocked by an ineffective, unorganized, and incorrect online database. The Berks County Public Library System, which provides a variety of support services for the 19 member libraries (which are located in 23 locations) across Berks County, is seeking to eradicate that confusion for consumers.

As of February 2024, the library system has launched a brand-new, online library catalog system that is designed to be more extensive and far more user-friendly than anything library patrons have used before.

“This new catalog system showcases physical materials that are available at our libraries, with the exception of the Oley and Wyomissing libraries,” said Emily Orischak, the Community Relations Coordinator for the library system.

Berks County joins dozens of other Pennsylvania public libraries using this new patron- forward catalog called SPARK. The consortium draws on a robust support system dedicated to improving the user experience with new features and functionalities. A project years in the making, the new online catalog system offers a search engine with easy-to-use filters, so patrons can easily search topics, titles, authors, and more.

“The filtering options in the old system were not as user-friendly, this one is much more simplistic,” shared Ms. Orischak. “The system features more understandable terminology that people can use.”

An additional feature of the new catalog system that might be of particular interest to readers across Berks County is the fact that it includes an option for patrons to create customized booklists on their accounts.

“When a patron logs into their account, they can save book titles by category of interest in a booklist collection. They can add and remove titles from their personalized booklist which will exist as part of their account,” Ms. Orischak said. “They have the option to keep these lists private or make them public so others can view it.”

The new catalog is officially up and running at berks.sparkpa.org, and Ms. Orischak expressed her gratitude for patron’s sincere patience, feedback, and excitement as they launched the system and ironed out any residual kinks. “This system has numerous benefits; it’s very user-friendly…we want people to know it’s here and ready to go!” she said.

Users can access the new catalog from their library’s website or by visiting berks.sparkpa.org. Migration updates and a list of frequently asked questions are available at berkslibraries.org/migration.

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The Berks County Public Library System is a department of the County of Berks, serving 411,442 county residents across 866 square miles and 72 municipalities since 1986. Through the support of the Berks County commissioners, BCPL staff aids in strengthening the Berks County community by providing centralized support for the 19 full-service member libraries and four branches.