Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Public Access Microcomputers

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Public Access Microcomputers

Article excerpt

For the past five years I have been teaching an entry-level microcomputer course at Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois. As part of our "real world" experience, we always take one or more field trips to libraries where micros are alive and well. One of the places making our trip list this year was the Chicago Public Library Portage-Cragin Computer Center, run by Kevin Latham.

Portage-Cragin is a good place to visit since it is the newest microcomputer innovation at the Chicago Public Library. Its grand opening and dedication ceremony took place on March 13, 1991. Several hundred people attended the dedication where Library Commissioner John Duff spoke on the library's commitment to electronic services. Carol Tarsitano, branch head, described the long history of public access microcomputers at the CPL.

The lab is extraordinary on several levels. It is the first and only large lab of its kind in the Chicago Public Library, or perhaps in the state of Illinois, available to the public and housed in a public library. The new wing, funded by a state grant, is spacious, well designed, and built as a computer center. There are even security cameras in the comers of the room near the ceiling.

It occupies a space of 1,500 square feet. The total cost was $500,000; equipment alone cost over $105,000. The Computer Center is a separate department from the rest of the library with its own staff and hours. It is easy to close the doors and seal the wing when it is not in use.

Some ten microcomputers are currently available for patrons. These include Macintosh Plus and SE, Apple IIgs, and IBMs with hard disk drives, color monitors, and printers.

The software collection contains about 150 popular titles, 75 percent of which are business related. Patrons have access to word processing, graphics, database management, spreadsheet, and other types of software. Access is achieved through a printed list that has also been posted as a beautifully done and easy-to-read wall chart. When patrons want software, they request it at a desk they must pass on the way to the computers.

Access to computer information is enhanced by the Center's collection of 500 volumes on various computer topics, a selection of computer journals, and books with circulating software.

Serious Business People come from all over Chicago to use the equipment. …

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