Libraries unlimited

Monday, June 28, 2004

Check it out. The library is a happening kind of place.

Library patrons are unlimited in what they can take home to read because of a local regional system and the Internet.

The network of libraries in the Riverside Regional system acts as one big library, said Glenda Kenkel, branch manager at Scott City. If one branch doesn't have the title a patron wants but another does, she can put a hold on that book for the patron, giving a cardholder access to all the books in all the branches.

Riverside's main branch is in Jackson; there are also branches in Scott City, Oran, Benton, Perryville and Altenburg. Jackson also has a public library not in the Riverside system.

Computer software has taken the notion of a regional library system and broadened it to national proportions. Inter Library Loan now makes books available over the Internet, said Paula Gresham, director of adult services at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.

'So easy to use from home'

Even easier than Inter Library Loan is NetLibrary. Patrons first come to the library to set up an account with a user name and password. That allows them access to any books they want from their home computer.

Rebecca Sanders of Cape Girardeau loves that feature.

"Whenever I get a new book list, I get online to reserve what I want," she said. "Then I'm notified when they're here. It's so easy to use from home."

Sanders said she's a big fan of the library, coming by often to check out books, movies and CDs.

"We just remodeled an 80-year-old home, and we got books and ideas on construction from the library to help us along the way," she said.

E-Books is another program that allows users to read a book on the computer screen for four hours at a time.

"It's mainly for people who are doing research," Gresham said. "It has lots of titles we do not have here or obscure things the average person wouldn't want. But when you do need it, it's nice to have it available on that site."

People can also do research at the library at Southeast Missouri State University. Anyone with a Missouri driver's license can check out books, and even without a license, anyone can walk in and spend the day there reading, said librarian Pat Willingham. The university's library offers best sellers, but also more scholarly titles. It's also a repository for government documents including everything from transcripts of the Nuremberg trials to children's coloring books and recipe booklets from county extension services.

"It's a real treasure trove," Willingham said. "It takes some skill to mine it."

More mothers in summer

Libraries everywhere are more than just books and periodicals. They offer discussion groups, software for specialized interests and activities programs for children. Sanders brings her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 8, to the library when they visit her from Kansas City, Mo.

Sally Pierce, director of the Jackson Public Library, said that during the summer months she sees a lot of mothers come in to check out books for their children to read now that they're out of school.

"Mothers believe in reading and in keeping kids busy," Pierce said.

Libraries are also a place to go for music and movies, and each library's selection reflects its community. Cape Girardeau's library offers music from jazz to classical to rock and New Age. At Scott City, Kenkel said, music selections are mostly country and western because that's what people have donated.

Most libraries don't carry the same movies one could get at a video rental store. In Cape Girardeau, movies tend to be award-winning classics, films based on a book, documentaries, travelogues or family movies. In Jackson, the videos are mostly "how to" selections and children's classics. Riverside at Scott City has an assortment of comedies, children's videos, Disney films, dramas and westerns.

Keeping in touch

Cape Girardeau provides computers without Internet access for people who want to do word processing and a typewriter for those who prefer the old-fashioned way. There are meeting rooms, audio visual equipment, laptop computers and hands-on learning kits on a variety of subjects.

Ronald Walker of Cape Girardeau was sitting in front of one of the computers with Internet access on a recent afternoon sending an e-mail to his sister. Walker, a music teacher and Wal-Mart manager, doesn't have a computer at home. The library's computer keeps him connected to relatives and job opportunities. Walker said he has also checked out tapes to use in his classes.

Even the homebound can use the Cape Girardeau library, either by computer or by mail. A group of volunteers reads to individuals or groups at participating nursing homes.

"Some people can't hold books anymore or can't operate a tape recorder," Gresham said. "Sometimes the readers end up just visiting with the residents as much as anything."

335-6611, extension 160

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