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AREA LIBRARIES GO HIGHER-TECH MONDAY

A trip to the Salt Lake County library will take less time and provide more information beginning Monday.

A new Dynix automated computer system will be put into operation, capping a yearlong effort to improve service for the system's 280,000 card-holders.Library patrons will be most affected by the increased number of computer terminals available for checking library resources. Library officials said the new system has a number of self-help options and virtually assures that anyone can successfully use the new terminals.

Patrons no longer have to know an exact title or author to find the book or information they are seeking. Key words can be used to narrow categories until the patron finds the desired information. For example, a history buff seeking specific information on the U.S. Civil War need only type in the words civil war to begin the search. By typing in United States, the category is further narrowed. The use of a historic figure, such as Stonewall Jackson, also helps to narrow the categories.

The system also provides the patron with information on book availability, including which of the 16 branch libraries have copies, whether they are in stock, the return date on those checked out and whether there are hold orders for the book. And, if the book is not available at the branch where the patron is using a terminal, the computer lists available books in order of the nearest library where the book is available.

"I think this system moves us (the Salt Lake County Library system) toward the 21st century," said Ilene Longsworth, county library director. "Information comes at us in so many says that we need to have something more than just a card catalog."

Actually, Salt Lake County has been a leader in automated library services, installing its first computer system in 1978. While that system has undergone a number of upgrades, it became obvious last year that something new was needed, Longsworth said.

Providing public access to the new system on Monday signals that the first battery of tests has been successfully passed by Dynix. The county will present a $214,000 check to the company at noon Monday at Whitmore Library, 2197 E. 7000 South, during the formal dedication ceremony. Longsworth said the the company faces a series of additional system checks over the next six months before it can receive the remainder of its $932,000 contract. Total cost of the new system, including some special hardware items, is just over $1 million.

Evelyn Tuddenham, media coordinator, said employees will benefit because books can be checked in and out much more quickly. The system automatically monitors book use and has the ability to send out alerts when use indicates additional copies of a particular book are warranted. It also can supply information on percent of use within the collection and can even determine if the system should move copies of a particular book from one library to another, based on demand and use.

"It will provide us with just about any kind of information we want," Longsworth said. "We're excited and believe our patrons will greatly benefit."

All of the branches except Alta will be on the system. Longsworth said Alta is not included because it requires long-distance telephone connections and use in the small branch does not justify the cost. However, the county's bookmobile fleet will be able to use the system through a microwave relay device.