CENTERVILLE -- With a current card, its always been possible to go to one of Houston Countys public libraries during regular hours and check out a book, use off-the-shelf reference materials and get help from staff librarians.
But more is on the way.
Modern technologies are altering the way libraries operate and offer services. In Houston County, technology is expanding services and making access to information available past library hours and beyond library walls.
You can still go to the library and find a book and check it out, but Karen Odom, director of the countys library system, said now you can also go online at home to see if the book you want is on the shelf, checked out or available from another Georgia library.
Odom said you can have a book sent to the library of your choice. If its not available, you can place it on reserve and arrange a call or e-mail when its available. Or, you might just want to download an e-book thats to your liking.
That just scratches the surface of whats new these days at the library.
Odom said the countys three library branches have Wi-Fi connections for laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices. Each also has an array of computers equipped with word processing and other productivity software, as well as Internet access for people with a card.
You could trace our modern move toward technology to the early 1990s when we shifted from physical card catalogs to computer databases, Odom said. With the Internet, Georgia PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Services) came into play, linking libraries across the state. Since then, possibilities for more services have multiplied.
Odom said with a library card and number, plus a password, the librarys website at houpl.org has become a true gateway of access to information and materials geared to varied interests and educational pursuits, such as homework help from kindergarten through college. There are general encyclopedias and highly specialized journals.
From our site you can go to the PINES site, Odom said. You can access the University of Georgias GALILEO system, which is a very powerful and expansive reference database with millions of published articles on a wide variety of subjects and genres. You can find professional journal articles, records for genealogy, old newspapers, historic archives and even literary reference and criticism for people doing book reports. It eases the problem of people rushing to the library right at closing to find resources. All this information and more is available 24/7.
Odom said through houpl.org, patrons have access to resources such as Learning-Express, which offers free study and preparation materials for standard tests such as the GED, SAT, military entrance exams and more. She said a language-learning site called MANGO is available, as is GADD, which offers a small selection of downloadable e-books and larger selection of audio books.
Again, all are accessible with a library card and number. A password also is necessary for online access and additional log-ins may be required for related sites.
Odom said with new technologies come new problems and staffing requirements. Dixie Henning was hired in 1997 as the systems Information Technology coordinator.
We got Wi-Fi up and running at all the libraries in July of last year, Henning said. There were some glitches along the way but recently everything seems to be working well.
Henning said the library, like many other public Wi-Fi providers, requires an agreement regarding use and behavior while connected but does not provide anti-virus protection.
She said the library does incorporate safeguards against inappropriate sites, but said such precautions are not always foolproof. She said parents should be aware of childrens online activity in the library just as they should be at home.
Odom said the library provides patrons with a good place for Internet access and an opportunity to learn computer and online skills to keep up in the digital age.
However, she said while staff members are always willing to be helpful, they are not always able to sit and teach computer skills or give extensive help to patrons for tasks such as filling out online applications.
She said if someone needs extensive help they should consider bringing along a more knowledgeable family member or friend to work with them.
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