Libraries Preparing for More Changes

Article excerpt

Byline: McCartney & Raleigh

After the large sensor doors glide open and one enters the lobby of Naperville's downtown Nichols Library, one may notice a small set of steps on the right.

If the person is under 3 feet tall, they're guaranteed to not only notice, but to climb the stairs and push the button on the wall to light the display.

Donated by the Russell Family, the display is a miniature model of the interior of the original Nichols Library at 110 S. Washington St. There are two floors with wrought-iron railings, books in wooden bookcases, roll shades on the windows and quill pens.

On Sept. 22, 1898, the original Nichols opened with $10,000 bequeathed to the city by professor and author James Nichols. It opened with 700 volumes and had roughly that many checkouts the first year.

Who would have thought that in 100 years there would be a new main library and a branch containing 433,983 books, videos, CDs and other library materials with an operating budget of $5.2 million?

The new 63,300-square-foot Nichols at 200 W. Jefferson opened in 1986. The Naper Boulevard branch opened in 1992.

The current circulation numbers may have amazed Nichols. In 1996-97, 1.8 million items were checked out and 420,000 questions were answered.

Library Director Donna Dziedzic says circulation is rising even faster than the city's booming population.

As the library celebrates its centennial this year, it also will be developing an important Blueprint for Growth to guide its future.

Dziedzic said officials are in the process of scheduling focus groups to develop a questionnaire that will be sent to a random sampling of households. The results should be tabulated this fall and will provide a basis for strategic planning for the future.

There are many issues, a few of which are: whether to build another building on the 3-acre site near the new Neuqua Valley High School; what type of on-line services will be available; and spending priorities between materials and hours of service. Officials also plan to develop a Web site.

"Naperville is an exceptional combination," Dziedzic said. "It has sophisticated information-seekers and it has people who are highly family-child oriented who value library activities. So you have those who consider the library as a community place and those who value electronic possibilities."

Dziedzic said it's obvious that many Napervillians already have access to electronic sources of information because of the more complicated nature of their reference questions, which now take half as long to answer.

In this age of technological change and information availability, libraries offer a wide array of possibilities. The public library in Milton, Mass., (http://www. …