At 75, Orland Park Public Library looks to future
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org November 23, 2012 6:12PM
A painting commissioned by artist John Dawson hangs in the stairwell at the Orland Park Public Library. The painting represents the diverse wildlife in the Orland Park area. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
To mark its 75th year, the Orland Park Public Library is hosting a number of events through the rest of this year. For information, visit www.orlandparklibrary.org/75th.htm.
Updated: December 26, 2012 6:01AM
Mary Ann Ahl loves her ereader, but the longtime Orland Park Library Board trustee said, “There’s something about holding a grandchild in your lap with ‘Goodnight Moon.’ ”
While more people are reading books — or a magazine or newspaper — on ereaders, tablets and other electronic devices, their paper counterparts aren’t going away anytime soon at the Orland Park Public Library.
But as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the library is working to appease older patrons while trying to draw in younger people. And it’s doing more to bring what the library has to offer out into the community by holding events at locations such as local restaurants or the village’s farmers market.
“The library is no longer just a building,” assistant library director Robin Wagner said. “It’s your presence in the community; it’s an entity.”
The library’s initial presence was a collection of 330 books — most of them supplied by the federal Works Progress Administration — housed in the Purple Candle Building, named for a restaurant that once occupied the space. The current 93,000-square-foot library at 14921 Ravinia Ave. opened eight years ago and contains more than 260,000 items.
Along with the ability to check out ebooks, library card holders have access 24/7 to online databases the library subscribes to.
To make older patrons feel more at home, the library has created “The Next Chapter,” a reading area with seating that is easier for seniors to get in and out of, and a nearby rack of newspapers as well as magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post, geared toward a more mature reader.
At the other end of the spectrum, the library’s teen area is getting a serious makeover. Seating with a “techno-industrial look” will be installed, as will a flat-screen TV and Blu-ray DVD player and video gamer-style chairs, Wagner said. Most of the work should be completed by the end of this month.
“It’s a tough group to reach out to,” Wagner said of teens. “It’s not cool to hang out at the library.”
Mixing old with new
Kids and their parents still are playing with wood puzzles and looking through picture books in the children’s area, but newer technology gives the section a different feel.
There’s Peek-A-Book, which gives young readers a video and audio snippet of a book — sort of a “try before you buy” feature. A self-checkout kiosk, which operates along the lines of the self-checkout lanes of the supermarket, allows patrons to scan their library cards and the books they want to take home.
Like other libraries, Orland has added ebooks and is looking for ways to increase the selection.
“Everybody wants more ebooks,” said Ahl, who’s served as a library board trustee for 35 years.
Apart from not even having to visit the library to check them out, the ebooks automatically check themselves back in after two weeks, so patrons don’t have to worry about accruing fines, she said. The library also has ereaders available for checkout.
Wagner said library staffers have been looking over the planned budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins in January, to see where money can be shifted to buy more ebooks. For example, the library might opt to not buy the paper versions of reference books where the new version is available online, and instead use that money for ebooks, Wagner said.
“We have to pick and choose what technology we put our money toward,” she said.
Children’s books — and particularly picture books — have been slower to migrate to electronic format because the illustrations lend themselves to the more expensive color versions of ereaders, Wagner said. Still, younger readers are becoming more accustomed to reading on a screen rather than flipping pages, she said.
“That’s what they are used to and that’s what they’re going to be used to for the rest of their lives,” Wagner said.