From the pages of

Library card is passport to the world

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

Savon Ahlman, referance librarian with the Moline Library helps Allen Wolford of Geneseo with the CD-Rom computers at the 41st street branch library.

MOLINE -- Would you like to plan a wine-tasting tour of France or learn how to send e-mail to your grandchildren at college?

Research the repair history for that sporty convertible you've been eyeing? Perhaps, you want to watch a video, listen to a CD or just curl up with a good mystery.

All this and more is waiting on the shelves of Quad-Cities libraries, and technology has made that information more accessible than ever.

``Libraries have built better access to the books, periodicals, videos, compact disks, recorded books and other library materials by participating in Quad-LINC (Quad City Libraries in Cooperation),'' River Bend Library System director Robert McKay said. ``When Quad-LINC began more than a dozen years ago, the idea of areawide access to library holdings was a dream.''

About 70 Quad-Cities area libraries are linked together in Quad-LINC, a computer database of the libraries' holdings administered by the River Bend Library System, a regional library-coordinating agency. River Bend, which began in 1966, allows for interlibrary loaning or reciprocal borrowing of materials, Mr. McKay said.

Through the magic of an interlibrary loan, a student at Rock Island High School can borrow books for a research paper from Muscatine Community College by asking the high school librarian to have them transferred in.

Reciprocal borrowing allows patrons of one ``home'' library to use the same card to check out books from another library.

Quad-Cities library patrons can borrow more than 2.2 million items, including everything from Oprah's Book Club selections to travel guides to newspapers.

All items can be accessed with one inexpensive plastic card, which impresses Davenport resident Roger Smith, who calls his library card a ``passport to the land of enlightenment and entertainment.''

``The amount of materials is amazing,'' Mr. Smith said. ``It's fascinating to have all that information at your fingertips. It's an educational experience.''

River Bend materials have attracted national attention, too. Black Hawk College has filled requests for materials from Maine to Missouri, library director Charlet Key said, including a request from Harvard University for a copy of a nursing article the Ivy League school did not have.

However, community libraries do more than just supply reading material, Ms. Key said. They provide access to ideas, skills and technology many families would not have otherwise.

``A statistic the other day showed a percentage of homes with access to the Internet,'' Ms. Key said. ``Illinois had less than 12 percent. I was stunned. I think that's a statistic politicians and librarians need to be aware of.

``I invite anyone who hasn't been in a library for a long time to come in,'' she said. ``We are still committed to helping people find the information they need. We just have different tools today.''

Mr. Smith enjoys many aspects of that improved technology, including access to computers and the convenience of returning a book at any library. Still, the best aspects of Quad-Cities libraries have not changed over the decades, he said.

``I like the way you're treated,'' he said. ``I like the fact they have public rooms you can reserve for meetings. They also have courses, like one I took on memoir writing at the Davenport library. I got to meet new people, and struck up friendships with several of those people.

``That little library card is very valuable,'' Mr. Smith said. ``It's something the people ought to appreciate.''

-- By Sarah Larson (February 2, 1998)

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