Need for Information Draws Users to Kiosks

Article excerpt

Byline: Kimbriell Granderson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Angela Tomlinson didn't just while away time thinking up life- simplifying gadgets and gizmos as many people do. She was one of the few who actually created one.

Her creation, though, is not about adding pennies to her pocketbook. Rather it helps bring people closer to the social services already nestled in their communities.

"You could be freezing in the streets, and there are coats around the corner and you don't even know it," said Tomlinson, president of Lake Bluff-based BVM Communications, Inc.

Her concept is called The Fifth Media - a new information source disguised as a friendly automated teller machine. The community-driven kiosk uses a simple touch-screen to quickly lead users through a complex database of information from 4,500 government agencies.

The kiosk will debut today for the first time in Cook County at three Des Plaines locations - Jewel-Osco 1500 S. Lee St. and at 819 S. Elmhurst Road and the Des Plaines Public Library, 841 Graceland Ave. DuPage County is opening a kiosk in a Wheaton Jewel Food Store later this year.

"One of the objectives of our administration has been to enhance communications, and the addition of the community information kiosk is another means of helping us do this," said Des Plaines Mayor Paul Jung.

From finding tax help or a home, to screening a doctor at Lutheran General Hospital, the free-to-use machine contains a pool of data with locator maps that can be printed from the machine for free.

The kiosk cost $30,000 to create and is subsidized by sponsors. Lutheran General Hospital, in Park Ridge, is the main sponsor for the Des Plaines sites, paying between $5,000 and $10,000 for each of the three locations. The city is a key sponsor and will pay $8,000 annually to list city jobs, volunteer opportunities, community events and senior services.

The device's grocery store, library and college appeal have proven a perfect fit with the overall mission of accessing people at places they are more likely to visit.

Though curiosity may draw people to the awkward-looking machine, its ease is what keeps them there. The kiosk requires no computer skills and has a simple touch screen and virtual keyboard.

There are about 10 pictures on the screen that denote specific functions. For example, a dinner plate would represent restaurants, emergency food services and restaurant reviews. A picture of a home would denote local property listings or nearby shelters. A senior citizen icon could list recreational services for people over 50, and the picture of people conversing indicates counseling services - from mental health and alcohol abuse, to gambling, financial and legal aid. …