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VOL. 111 | NO. 29 | Wednesday, February 12, 1997

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lj 10/5 cates Public library books a spot on the Internet Feb. 12, 1997 -- In todayís Internet-savvy society, finding practically everything you could ever want about almost anything is as easy as two clicks of a mouseís tail ó anyone with a computer and a modem can do it. The Memphis/Shelby County Public Library and Information Center is doing its part to lead the way into the Information Age, with recent branch renovations and new construction geared toward giving library patrons increased access to the Internet. Last month, renovation work was completed on the Poplar-White Station branch library at 5094 Poplar Ave., and construction is about wind up on a new Germantown branch library at 1925 Exeter Road, said library system spokesperson Daphne Thomas. The Poplar-White Station branch, which opened Saturday, is the second in the Memphis library system to give library customers the opportunity to venture onto the Internet free of charge, and the Germantown branch, scheduled to open March 3, will be the third. ìWith the facilities we have right now, we cannot provide the high level of electronic access that public libraries have been asked to offer,î said library director Judith Drescher. ìAs we continue to renovate, we will redo every electrical, phone and telecommunications system so that eventually, every location will be able to provide World Wide Web and Internet access.î This online access was made possible in part by a grant provided by Microsoftís Libraries Online! program, a $10.5 million philanthropic initiative to help library systems in economically disadvantaged communities nationwide. The Memphis library system received $112,500 in grant funds, which will allow nine branch libraries, plus the main library, to go online, Thomas said. The funds also will fund the purchase of computer hardware and software, as well as training. The new Germantown branch, with 31,000 square feet of space, also will be more than three times the size of the facilityís current quarters at 1920 S. Germantown Road. In addition to increased meeting space and collection room, the new library will be equipped exclusively with personal computers rather than the customary public access computer terminals. ìThe library system is heading in the direction of using a more universal and user-friendly concept concerning the display of database information by using personal computers,î said Steve Foster, automated services manager for the library system. More than 20 PCs will be available to library customers. With the debut of the libraryís home page on the World Wide Web, users will have access to information about library services, events and activities, as well as the libraryís Public Information Gateway, or computer catalog. The current Germantown branchís last day of services is Saturday so that staff can be trained and materials moved. The county supplied 25 percent of the funds for the $4.6 million project, and the balance was raised by the Germantown Library Commission from private sources. Renovations to the 30-year-old Poplar-White Station branch, valued at $475,000, consisted of completely reworking the electrical, heating, air conditioning and plumbing systems, Drescher said. Drescher said the library system is almost ready to begin renovations on the South Third Street branch in Southgate Town Center. The collection housed at the smaller South branch library at Third and Norwood will be moved to the South Third Street branch after renovations are complete. An architect also has been hired to design a new branch for Southeast Shelby County. The site hasnít been selected yet, but it will be on Shelby Drive. The County Commission has approved the acquisition of property and the hiring of Hnedak Bobo Group as architect. Drescher also said the library system will be undertaking cosmetic renovations on several smaller branches throughout the city. ìOne of the things we always find is that as soon as we freshen up the branches, even if its just new carpeting, furniture coverings or paint, it just reinspires people to come back,î Drescher said. ìJust like with any business, if you look old and stale, they think your collection is old and stale. ìBut we try very hard, every 10 or 15 years, when we get the money, to change the colors and make them a little more open and modern. As soon as we do that, we get lots of new customers coming back.î By LAURIE JOHNSON The Daily News

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