I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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Library checking out future of reading
By Barry Schrader.................................Feburary
listed on the National Register of Historic Places in
1980. The desk she uses is the original 1893 desk of the towns
first librarian, Eliza Murray.
The DeKalb Public Library on Feb. 13 celebrated 80 years
in the Haish Memorial Library building, a 19,000-square-foot
historical edifice packed with 90,000 volumes of books, plus
hundreds more CDs, DVDs, microfilms and periodicals.
to library Director Dee Coover the next day, she explained the
shelves are so full that for every new book purchased, one of
the least used must go. Seated in her corner office, overlooking
the first home of Isaac Ellwood across Third Street, she was
surrounded by memories of the barbed wire barons.
Haish, whose money built this library, was one of the three DeKalb
men who made their fortunes with the invention and manufacture
of the prickly wire. His portrait is displayed in her office,
along with a cane made from twisted strands of barbed wire that
bears his name. A nearby plaque shows the building was
Dee Coover, DeKalb Public Library director, sits at her desk
in the Haish Memorial Library building on Oak Street in DeKalb.
The desk is the 1893 desk of the towns first librarian,
(Barry Schrader photo)
But on top of it
stands a 21st century flat-panel monitor for a computer that
represents the dichotomy libraries find themselves in today.
They cant possibly afford the thousands of new books authors
are cranking out, but the computer can provide an alternative
in online reading and remote access to the editions people still
seek to read. When Coover started at the library 17 years ago,
e-books and e-reader devices werent in our vocabulary.
Now shes getting her staff up to speed on the
coming introduction of e-reading to their patrons
and trying to find the money to buy access to the new offerings
online that already number in the hundreds of thousands.
She said the library doesnt plan to purchase
the e-reader devices, but will offer titles for patrons to access
and download from home without ever visiting the library.
The problem is the companies that distribute e-books
wont let them offer an e-book to more than one patron at
a time, and the period of the loan is over when the e-book is
erased automatically from the computer. She must also purchase
a hardbound edition for patrons who dont have access to
the new technology. So if people want to read the latest Harry
Potter book, they have to wait for it to be returned by a patron
who has it at home a month, or for the e-edition that also has
about the same loan period. Of course libraries can order multiple
copies, but that is costly.
So librarians have
to be experts at reading the minds of consumers,
knowing which books they will want to read, whether they will
want them in paper or digitally and how many to stock to meet
Coover is optimistically forging ahead
to embrace the new technologies so the library can meet the demands
of todays readers. She has only $5,000 budgeted for this
digital venture, but plans to stretch it as far as possible to
keep up with the times.
It was encouraging to
learn that out of the 96 public libraries in this region of the
state, DeKalb is the second highest in book circulation. There
is certainly demand for more titles among residents.
at the cramped quarters and steady flow of patrons, I certainly
hope the community is ready to support a new facility in the
not-too-distant future. I can envision converting this grand,
old building into a fine museum it may even be the perfect
answer to what the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association
is looking for.
Now for a bit of trivia: At the
80th open house I queried several people as to what book they
have just read. Coover answered: Room by Donoghue.
DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen named twoFord Country
by Grisham and Lake Wobegon Days by Keillor. State
Rep. Bob Pritchard said his was First Family by Ellis
about President John and Abigail Adams, while his wife Mary has
just read Mary by Newman which is a fictitious diary
account of First Lady Mary Lincoln while in an asylum. Reference
librarian Theresa Iversen recently finished Learning to
Die in Miami by Carlos Eire.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115