Libraries Look to Grow, Evolve with the Net
Lissau, Russell, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Russell Lissau Daily Herald Staff Writer
When Carmel High School junior Mike Duffy Jr. needed to investigate Founding Father Thomas Jefferson for a recent class project, his first stop was his local library.
"But they didn't have a lot of information," the Ingleside teen lamented. "And the books that I found were pretty ancient."
Disappointed, Duffy turned to a much more convenient source to continue his research: his home computer. Unlike the fruitless trip to the library, an exploration of the Internet turned up all the material he needed to complete his assignment.
"There are so many different perspectives and varieties of sources on the Net that I got what I wanted," he said. "It's much better than the library."
Duffy's experience isn't unusual. The evolution of the World Wide Web and the continuing computerization of American homes has provided ever-growing access to books, magazine articles, encyclopedia entries and other sources without requiring the use of library cards.
"The information people want isn't just at the library anymore," said Libertyville businessman and activist Jack L. Martin. "It's all over the world."
But the public's increased reliance on the Internet for information does not mean the impending demise of the public library system. Libraries have jumped on the technology bandwagon, too, filling their halls with Web-accessing computers, audio books, CD-ROMs and other nontraditional materials.
Libraries are changing - and growing. In recent years, taxpayers in Mundelein, the Round Lake area, Grayslake and other towns have spent millions of dollars building larger libraries or renovating existing buildings, and more projects are on the horizon.
Library employees reject the notion their days as information providers are numbered. They are confident people will continue to need their services as the Computer Age progresses.
"In fact, I think they even need it more," said Carol Larson, director of Lake Zurich's Ela Area Public Library. "We're helping people with all of these electronic resources. We're busier than ever before."
According to a 1999 survey by Odyssey, a San Francisco market research firm, one-third of all U.S. households have online access. That's up from 6 percent just five years earlier.
Just about everything you can find in a library can be located on the Internet: encyclopedia entries, magazine articles, famous quotations, passages from countless books, music, videos and much, much more.
Because of the Internet, there's no reason for libraries to expand dramatically in physical size anymore, said Libertyville's Martin, who has successfully campaigned against Cook Memorial Library's repeated efforts to build a larger library or secondary branches.
Libraries are still needed, Martin said, but their role in society is changing because of technology. As the transfer of information becomes increasingly computer-based, patrons will go to libraries primarily to search the Internet and electronic databases, Martin predicted. …