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The quickest way to find out if the Salt Lake City Library has a copy of the latest blockbuster novel or great classic in stock is to rev up your computer.

The Salt Lake City Library now has an on-line system that allows patrons to link with its computerized catalog to see what's in stock. The system, called CityCat, is available 231/2 hours a day, seven days a week."We have had requests from patrons for at least two years to move in this direction," said Nancy Tessman, library deputy director. "We're really excited."

The new service is part of the library's mission to be the premier source of information for residents. In the '90s, that means becoming a hub on the information highway.

The on-line service allows patrons to search for books, cassettes, videos and compact discs anywhere in the library system. Patrons can then call the library and ask that an item they've located be placed on hold until they can pick it up, Tessman said.CityCat uses a menu similar to the one on computer terminals at city libraries. Searches can be made by author, subject or title.

Magazines, newspapers and government documents are not yet in the system, although the library plans to add them in the future, according to David Jacobson, computer technician.

"Our goal over the next few years is to provide the entire range of information access to the public via the dial-ups (on-line services)," Jacobson said. "That's still quite a way downstream. Our short-term goal is to start providing access to state and city government information."

That will include posting City Council agendas, council minutes and budget information on CityCat.

Some users have had difficulty linking up during peak periods of the day, particularly from within the downtown area. Jacobson said that is because of heavy traffic on US WEST telephone lines downtown.

But overall response from patrons has been great, Tessman said.

"At the peak we've been getting 80 calls a day, and it appears to be gradually growing," she said.

CityCat shuts down from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday while the system is backed up. From October through April, the system will be down from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Patrons may use the search system for up to 30 minutes at a time. There is no charge.

The Salt Lake City Library plans to give patrons another lift onto the information highway in the next six weeks: It will make public access to Internet available at library terminals.

The Salt Lake County Library also plans to begin delivering high-tech services to patrons soon. It will have an on-line catalog system operating by November, said Scott Russell, marketing and community relations manager.


Additional Information

Dialing for books

What you need: A computer equipped with a modem with a minimum baud rate of 300. Faster baud rates, up to 14,400 bits per second, are preferred.

Modem settings: 8 bits, 1 stop bit, none on parity, full on duplex and VT100 on terminal emulation.

Access phone number: 524-8246. Add *70 to the front of the number to disable call waiting if you have that feature.

Login word: citycat (lower case only).

To log off: Press the letter x.

Need help? Call the library at 524-8200 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.