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Library joins the computer age

Thursday, July 6, 2006

(Photo)
ALTON PUBLIC LIBRARY: Alton Head Librarian Janice Richardson looks over the library's checkout cards, one of her many daily duties at the library.
OREGON COUNTY -- For the past year the Oregon County Library District has been working toward retrospective conversion; in other words, the libraries are turning their paper files into machine readable information on computers.

Oregon County Library Coordinator Judy Wright said when the process is complete, she hopes by the summer of 2007, a person will be able to walk into any of the five libraries in the county, sit at a computer and enter information such as titles, authors or subjects and the computer will provide information such as if any library in the county has the book or material in question and if it is checked out.

"We have had a tremendous amount of help from the state getting this project under way. It also helps that one of our board members, Myrtle Little, is a school librarian and familiar with the process," Wright said.

The library district in the county is fairly new. In 1966 a grassroots effort was started to form some type of library system in Oregon County.

Alton resident Doris Johnson said a committee was formed that gathered signatures to place a tax issue on the ballot that would fund library services in Oregon County.

"I was at the first meeting that was held in the courtroom of the courthouse. We had a good turnout of people from all over the county," Johnson said.

She said she was also involved in getting the tax issue passed. "I made a presentation to the Alton Rotary Club concerning the library tax and did some spots on the radio," she said.

The issue passed. The library tax levy set by the state at that time was a maximum of 20 cents. The committee contacted the closest library service they were familiar with, the Current River Regional Library in Van Buren. They joined the regional library district.

The Current River Regional Library was composed of Oregon, Carter, Ripley and Reynolds counties. Eunice Pennington served as head librarian. Some of the library services offered in the county included a traveling bookmobile, and films and cassette tapes loaned to area schools.

"Our library services were very limited. We just didn't have the funds to start our own library and that is why we went with the Current River Regional Library," Johnson said.

By 1979, Oregon County residents began to feel like they were not getting adequate library services. "By the time books would get to us, they were not current. Some people thought our county would be better served by keeping our tax money here and forming our own library district," Wright said.

In 1980 the first-ever Oregon County Library Board of Directors was formed. The board consisted of John Beck Jr., Thayer; Walton Wilson, Thayer; George Tucker, Alton; Gene Johnson, Couch; and Wilma McMurtry, Thayer.

Five libraries were established in the new library district, Alton, Koshkonong, Myrtle, Thomasville and Thayer.

Bill Franz was hired as the Oregon County Library District accountant in 1980.

In 1985 the first county library policy book was written. Wright said this shows the library district was on the right track.

Just this month the Oregon County Commission appointed a new member to the Oregon County Library Board of Directors, Ellen Kauffman of the Thomasville area. Other board members are Peggy Rogers, Thayer; Mary Lea Pease, Koshkonong; Betty Minich, Alton; and Myrtle Little, Alton. Wright said the board appointments are staggered so all the board members do not go off the board at one time.

The library board sets the policy for the library district. The board meets quarterly.

The libraries at Alton and Thayer are open on a full-time basis. Janice Richardson is the head librarian at Alton, and Grace Mainprize is the head librarian at Thayer.

The Koshkonong, Myrtle and Thomasville Libraries are open a minimum of 20 hours a week. Paula Miller is the head librarian at Koshkonong. Janis Campbell is the head librarian at the Myrtle Library, and Bernedette Wadkins is the head librarian at Thomasville.

"I can't stress enough that the reason our libraries in this county have flourished so is the good staff we have at all our libraries," Wright said.

The library coordinator said she yearly makes a statistics report to the Missouri State Library. Wright shared some of her 2005 Oregon County Library statistics. There are 44,128 items in the county library collection. She said this includes books, videos, DVDs, magazines and other items. She said the number fluxuates because of old items being removed and new items being added.

Wright said the five libraries had 9,501 visits last year. The computers in the libraries were used 5,806 times, and 14,000 reference transactions were made.

Last year the library district offered 41 adult programs including reading clubs at Thayer and Thomasville. Alton head librarian Janice Richardson also presented a Civil War program at the Alton Library.

There were 100 children's programs in 2005. "Each library does a summer reading program for children. Last year 1,713 children participated in those programs," Wright said.

She said 61,000 library items were checked out in 2005.

The library coordinator said there are currently 5,992 registered library patrons in the county. She said being a registered library patron enables a person to be able to check out books.

"That's not a bad number for a county with a population around 10,000," Wright said.

Wright said there are 38 computers in the Oregon County Library District, and 26 of them are available for public access. Wright said the first computers came to the library seven or eight years ago and all have been purchased with state library grants. She said the computer system is updated about every three years.

Last year the library district operated on approximately $200,000. Accountant Bill Franz said the library tax in the county generated $139,000 of that amount. The rest of the funds came from grants, state aid, money from fines and lost books and interest generated from funds on hand.

Wright will be busy the upcoming year preparing the library district for retrospective conversion. She said she has applied for two grants, one for $48,556, the other for $33,053, that will help make the transition easier.

"This is a team effort and could not be accomplished without everyone working together," Wright said.



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