Local Libraries Boldly Move into Digital Age

Article excerpt

Couples selecting videos, parents browsing through DVDs and children checking out CD-ROMS.

No, it is not the local video store.

It is the local library.

Libraries in DuPage County are no longer just for checking out books.

They are technologically advanced community centers where seniors learn how to surf the Web and kids play educational computer games.

But things weren't always that way. Officials at the Bloomingdale Public Library, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, remember when patrons had just two choices:

They could check out books or record albums.

The library has come a long way since then. It now boasts a video collection as varied as any local video store.

"We have 4,976 videos, 2,054 compact discs and 445 DVDs," director Mary Rodne said. "When I started here in 1986 we had one computer; now we have 92 and are heading toward 100."

The library also offers CD-ROMS and books on tape and disc.

And Bloomingdale is not alone. Libraries throughout DuPage County are expanding their collections of audio-visual entertainment.

"We replaced our 12-inch LP collection with all CDs," said Lynn Johnson, head of children's services for the Carol Stream Public Library. "We've seen a lot of growth in books-on-tape. We have hundreds of books-on-tape now."

Johnson attributes the demand for books on tape and CDs to increased driving.

"People really like them when they are on the road," she said. "They also use them when they are jogging or on vacation."

Today's libraries also are places where people can take classes on Internet use, hold community meetings and do group study. So they resemble community centers.

Part of that change results from the increased programming libraries now offer. The Bloomingdale library offers classes on everything from gardening and cooking to finances and computers.

"There was a high demand for them," Rodne said. "And they are all free except for any materials."

The Wheaton Public Library has added many programs for parents and children.

"People can't seem to get enough of the programming," director Sarah Meisels said. "I think because of the affluence (of the area), people's expectations are raised. They want more formats and are ambitious for their children to learn at a younger age."

One change technology has brought is the use of computers to track books, share resources and do research.

But one of the latest and greatest technologies some libraries have is a computer system that allows residents to hold and check out books themselves. …