Borrowing books or compact disks from the Spokane Public Library gets a lot easier today.
The city’s tax-supported library has new computer software offering faster, easier access to nearly everything inside its catalogs and databases.
During the last year, about 5,000 computer-connected patrons have dialed into the library, reserving books or grabbing copies of magazine articles on their screens.
Starting today, finding, printing or copying that material becomes - in computer terms - totally graphical.
The software lets a user point and click on icons or highlighted buttons. The older method, introduced in 1995, requires entering words, phrases and other keyboard commands.
Interim Library Director Aubrey George said the new software may be the first of its kind used by a public library.
Its ease of use should increase the number of people obtaining data or library information through computers, he predicted.
Users can continue reaching the library through the older text-based software system, he said.
In addition to the usual resources, the new software also gives users access to an on-line encyclopedia, thesaurus and dictionary.
Its major value is to let users get items or find information without asking for staff help, George said.
Among the software options are finding where a book is, renewing items or having something placed on hold at a branch library.
The new graphical interface makes that last task almost too easy. The user defines the book or magazine wanted, then drags the selected item on the screen to an icon representing the nearest branch.
The system costs about $15,000. That money comes from the voter-approved $29 million construction bonds that have added computer equipment to the library in recent years.
“This is the way everyone’s going in the computer information world - toward windows and easy point-and-click access,” said Library Information Manager Garv Brakel.
The new system also adds a graphic World Wide Web browser for remote dial-in patrons, said Brakel. Before, users connecting to the library with a modem were limited to text-only access to the Web.
Now they can use a version of Netscape that lets them see pictures and maps and other graphic items, said Brakel.
Using the new software is free. But it must be downloaded from the library’s home page onto users’ home or office computers.
It’s available in Windows and DOS versions. The software maker has said a Macintosh version should be available before long.
Its other advantage, he said, is giving wider library access to elementary school teachers.
“The library-school network right now gives complete access only to 13 (District 81) middle schools and high schools,” said Brakel. “This (new software) option lets elementary teachers and staff get quick access to the same information,” he said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GETTING IT Users of the software must have a valid Spokane Public Library card plus an identification number. For information, call 626-5333. To download the software, the address is: http://www.spokpl.lib.wa.us/ client.html