Sunday, May 6, 2012

MPL Goes Super High-Tech

In 1997 librarian Lynn Jurewicz became MPL Director, replacing Pat Vahey.  One of the new director's top priorities was to bring the Library technologically into the 21st century. Super high-tech was Ms. Jurewicz's calling card.  She earned a national reputation promoting library technologies in her book (co-authored with Todd Cutler), High Tech, High Touch:  Library Customer Service Through Technology (American Library Association, 2003).  Google Books provides a brief summary, but what you should really do is check-out the book with your Evergreen Indiana card (assuming, of course, that you're an E.I. patron).  Even a decade after its first publication, it is an excellent primer for libraries wishing to implement new technologies.  It has long been the standard library school textbook and public library reference book on this subject.

Lynn Jurewicz
MPL Director/Librarian, 1997-2004

Under Ms. Jurewicz's leadership, in 2000 MPL pioneered early "push" technologies to keep patrons informed via email about Library acquisitions, programs, and topics of interest. This was coupled with more traditional newsletter mailings and newspaper announcements, to reach those patrons without email accounts.  The combined approach increased, and greatly improved the efficiency of, the Library's marketing outreach.

Ms. Jurewicz followed this with an even greater technological triumph:  Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).  In 2001 MPL became one of the first public libraries in Indiana to insert RFID tags into all collection items.  This enormously enhanced collection security, as RFID would trigger an alarm at the Library entrance if an item were not checked-out to a patron's library card.  It also quickened the circulation process, as tags could be scanned by detection pads rather than staff having to  scan barcodes affixed to items.  Staff merely needed to pass an item across the detector to have it check-out, check-in, or otherwise register in the computerized ILS (integrated library system), such as when staff were conducting inventory control or collection management.

Example of an RFID Tag (Texas Instruments)

Ms. Jurewicz and her assistant director, Diane Huerkamp, wanted to tie high-tech gadgetry to library marketing.  One extremely successful program was the ACCESS library card campaign, launched in 2002 and which MPL continues today.  With ACCESS, an MPL patron could show his/her library card to a participating community business and receive cash discounts on purchases.  The original MPL ACCESS cards were light green, but today's Evergreen Indiana cards work, too.  Interested in saving some money?  Watch our promo trailer for details.

Click Play Button in Image to Start Video

Another technological wonder (created in 2002) was the Library's home-grown Legacy Links obituary database, with allows patrons with Internet access to search obituaries of over 20,000 deceased former residents of Mooresville and the northern townships of Morgan County, Indiana.  (Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library has a similar database, developed along the same lines at MPL's.)  Legacy Links augments the MPL Indiana Room's traditional obituary resources--obituary card files, newspaper clipping binders, microfilmed local newspapers, vertical files of family histories, and 19th century newspaper abstracts of deaths, births, marriages, etc.--to assist genealogical researchers and patrons interested in local history.

In 2003, besides publication of Ms. Jurewicz's treatise, MPL introduced playaways and DVDs into its media collections.  Playaways are audio-recordings preloaded on portable players.  Modern counterparts include video, as well as audio, content, but a decade ago, the Library purchased playaways of books read aloud by the authors or famous actors.  These still constitute a sizable portion of MPL's audiobook collections.

Lynn Jurewicz left MPL in 2004 to become executive director of Mentor Public Library, in Mentor, Ohio.  Just a quick glance at Mentor's website reveals the technological impact Ms. Jurewicz and her staff have had in providing library resources to their patrons.  (Check out Emma, the Mentor Library Digital Query Cat.  Emma is an A.I. Chatbot designed to answer your questions about the library.  MPL definitely needs this web-based functionality for Cauli Le Chat, our feline roving reporter.)  Thanks to the technological innovations adopted under Ms. Jurewicz's watch and supplemented under current director Diane Huerkamp's stewardship, MPL has become a 21st century, truly modern public library.

In 2004, MPL earned the Outstanding Library of the Year award from the Indiana Library Federation (ILF) for our ACCESS campaign.  In our next installment, we'll consider that pinnacle of success, and many other benchmarks, achieved under the current MPL administration's leadership.

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