May 25th, 2019
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12/30/2006 - Spokane Library Goes Techie

From comic strips to sitcoms, libraries are apt to be portrayed as stodgy places where mean, gray haired librarians are strict disciplinarians that keep all in silence. The downtown Spokane Public Library is a far cry from that. The card catalogues are long gone, and the catalogue is a computer database. All of the branches are networked, and the library has an IT department. The downtown branch has nineteen Internet access terminals. In addition to the Internet terminals, the library at 906 West Main has wireless Internet access – both through the SpokaneHotZone and wireless access throughout the building. This is not your grandmother’s library.

In addition to the collection of books -- which anyone with a library card and Internet access can checkout from their home computer -- the library system subscribes to many database services, at the cost of multi-thousands of dollars. The database research resources span subject from business and consumer information, to geography and science, to government and law, and even includes motor vehicle repair. There are database services for research purposes by students at many different grade levels. The majority of the research database services are directed at high school and college level students, but there are some for younger students as well. The information covered goes well beyond that available through a Google search. The information is in-depth, much more like an on-line encyclopedia, according to Mark Pond, business and reference librarian. “It’s a powerful system,” says Pond, “and well worth the money.”

Whether seeking help for homework, finding guidelines and demographics for starting a business, or doing genealogical research, the information is all there under "Research; Electronic Resources." The database is now a bit difficult to use, according to Pond, but the library IT department is working on that. Many of the electronic resources are available only with a library card. Library cards are free and can be obtained at any of the Spokane Library branches. Furthermore, through a reciprocal agreement, nonresident fees will not be charged to those in the Spokane County Library District service area.

In addition to the books at any of the Spokane branches and the electronic resources, Spokane Public Libraries are wired to almost every other library in the United States, according to Pond. Spokane participates in the Inter Library Loan program and can track down a desired book, microfilm, or other publication and get it. This greatly increases the local collection.

If a library customer is pressed for time and needs the definition of a term or some small bit of research done, they can telephone the references librarians and ask their help. The librarian will look up the term and either copy and fax it, or for a short definition, read it over the telephone. They will even put the work in the mail if needed. Of course, how much help a reference librarian can give will depend on the scope of the work, and how busy it is in the library at the time.

Using the public library has never been easier. Using, a reader can search the catalogue, learn whether the desired book is checked in or out, and put a hold on the book. The library will then keep the book available for pick up, send it to the branch closest to the reader, or even send it out in the mail.

Billie Moreland
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