June 23, 2008

Mayor Daley, Chicago Public Library Officials Unveil Major Expansion of Technology Services and New Website

Skyway Funds Used to Pay for Improvements
Mayor's Press Office

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Public Library officials today launched the library system’s new Integrated Library System (ILS) and website, a user-friendly expansion of technology services that will greatly improve a library user’s ability to access the system-wide catalog, online resources and other services.

“As Mayor, I’ve said many times that for Chicago to continue to progress for all its residents and to compete in the global economy in the future, we must reinforce the idea that education never ends. We have to instill in all our residents – but especially our children – a love of learning. Technology is one of our most powerful tools in this effort,” he said in a news conference at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.

He was joined by Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey and Jayne Carr Thompson, President of the Chicago Public Library Board of Directors, for the public launch of the ILS and website “Find It Chicago!,” both of which went into operation in March.

“For 135 years, the Chicago Public Library has provided free resources to people from all walks of life and we’ve worked very hard to make sure all the programs, services and technologies are cutting-edge and relevant to the needs of Chicagoans,” commented Commissioner Mary A. Dempsey. “Now that so many families are being affected by the struggling economy, the materials, technology and financial literacy training the Library provides to thousands of Chicagoans everyday is even more valuable.”

The expansion of services cost $11 million, and $10 million of that total came from proceeds of the Skyway lease the city set aside to invest in people and neighborhoods and to provide the infrastructure and the services that people need to succeed, Daley said.

“That is why I’m happy to help announce this major expansion of our technology services – including a new website -- that will make it easier for library users to access the catalog and other services from a home or office computer,” the Mayor said.

Daley also announced the expansion of the library’s CyberNavigators program, which hires college students to work in branch libraries to help teach library patrons how to use technology and is funded largely through grants from Bank of America and the Polk Brothers Foundation.

“We know that many people can’t take advantage of all the technology we offer, because they aren’t familiar with how to operate a computer. So today we are also announcing the expansion of CyberNavigators. Through the generosity of the bank and the foundation, we have been able to expand CyberNavigators from just three branches to 37 and we plan to increase that number by ten in the next year,” Daley said.

The ILS greatly improves library user’s ability to access the system wide catalog, online resources, circulation system, web access and delivery of services. Through this state of the art computer system, library patrons may now reserve a book, DVD, audio book on CD and audio CD; find out about library programming; research a sophisticated database; sign up for a computer session and access the library’s resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from a home or office computer.

The new Integrated Library System and “Find It Chicago!” website include:

Online Catalog

The ILS dramatically improves the quality, ease and results of a search by allowing patrons to narrow their focus through location, format, language or audience level. The new catalog will allow patrons to quickly and easily consult reviews, summaries and even character summaries before selecting their materials. This enhanced catalog showcases the Chicago Public Library’s vast holdings, and displays materials with cover art in a user friendly format which today’s consumers are used to seeing on leading search engines and shopping websites.

Kids’ Catalog

For the first time, the Chicago Public Library has a catalog created exclusively for younger readers, with information presented in a way that is both “kid-focused” and “kid- friendly.”

The Kids’ Catalog provides simple navigation options and introduces materials in categories which children will find easy to navigate. The Kids’ Catalog also heavily incorporates images, so young library patrons who are just learning to read are able to take full advantage of the Library’s robust collection. Some of the most utilized features include:

• Best Stories which showcases booklists created by Children and Young Adult Reference Librarians;

• Teacher Resources link, which focuses on timely topics such as science fairs and history fairs;

• Homework Help link, which refers young people to authoritative, safe resources such as websites, tutors and hotlines which provide study resources for children.

• Parent Resources with original content created by librarians instructing parents why and how they can help their kids learn to read.

Patron Placed Holds

Patrons now have the ability to reserve library materials (books, DVDs, audio books on CD, and music CDs) themselves, online, without the assistance of a librarian.

Searchable Events Calendar

The Chicago Public Library serves as one of the City’s premier cultural venues, providing thousands of free author events, exhibits, lectures, workshops, and family friendly events every year. The new Searchable Events Calendar provides an easier way for patrons to search for events they would like to attend. This online listing of the hundreds of events which the Chicago Public Library offers each month may be narrowed by key words, type of event, audience level, branch location and zip code.

For Teens

This is the first Chicago Public Library web-space designed in collaboration with Chicago teens for other young adults. For Teens showcases the Library’s collection of teen fiction and nonfiction, promotes Chicago Public Library teen events, and reintroduces the Library as a resource for young adults. Additionally, For Teens supplies external links to reputable internet safety resources, displays teen book reviews, and features materials on topics that are of interest to teens.

Branch Pages

All 79 Chicago Public Library locations serve as community centers, providing a meeting place where people from all walks of life are welcome and where they interact with their neighbors. The improved Branch Page allows patrons to quickly access the location, hours of service, upcoming programs and events, reading recommendations, specialized collections and public transportation routes for their local branch.

My CPL - Improved Renewal

Library patrons may now monitor their account activity, check fines and fees, update personal information and renew their materials 24 hours a day without visiting a Chicago Public Library location.

The Integrated Library System and the website are already a great success and are clearly making it easier for Chicagoans to take advantage of everything our libraries have to offer,” Daley said.

In May, the new website had more than 100 million “hits.” One year ago in May, the old website had about 28 million hits.

“The Chicago Public Library has become a model for library systems across the country, because we’ve shown how building a library can make our neighborhoods stronger and improve the quality of life for all our residents,” Daley said.

“Creating a city of readers will benefit every single Chicagoan, and it’s a responsibility we all share,” Daley said.

To give more Chicagoans internet access, the city also provides free wi-fi at 7 public locations (Daley Center, Federal Plaza, Gallery 37, Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Center for Green Technology, Thompson Center Plaza) and all 79 public library branches.

In addition, The City Colleges offer free Wi-Fi and computer lab access to the public at all 7 of its campuses.

And the city’s five Workforce Centers make computers available to the public, as do 21 of the Office of Workforce Development’s delegate agencies all around the city.