Philadelphia, PA) - September 26, 2005 - You won't have to stand 'in-line' to check out library books much longer. The Free Library of Philadelphia launched its new web site today and demonstrated electronic book check-out as one of the exciting, new features available to readers 'on-line'. The powerful internet technologies that will increase people's access to information include the newly designed Web Site, Early Literacy Stations(TM) and a remote service that allows users to download audio books from home or school. These technological enhancements will facilitate information access for everyone from preschoolers to job seekers to the elderly and homebound.
The new web site, the new features, the new services and new century have created a need for a new "look" for the Library. As a technology driven, multi-media information center, the Library also unveiled its new logo today, stressing the importance of the Central Branch as a FREE resource on the Parkway-the city's culture corridor-serving the entire city and region. The old logo reflects the historic and traditional library function with a book icon. The new logo, in a bold, red-lettered megaphone shape, shouts out the FREE in Free Library!
"We are the FREE Library providing FREE access to information to all in the City where freedom was born," said Elliot Shelkrot, president of the Free Library Foundation and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. "The new logo celebrates and highlights individuals' freedom to access all the information the Free Library makes available: FREE books, FREE DVDs, FREE Internet Access, and FREE guidance from librarians-our society's original information access experts."
As the Library increasingly embraces technology, it should be recognized as a contemporary institution that serves current and future needs for information and the invaluable services that are provided for free. The Free Library is the largest provider of free public access to information and the Internet in Philadelphia; it has 700 public computers system-wide and 500,000 card holders. While access to information is increasingly becoming available in electronic format only, nearly 45% of the homes in Philadelphia still do not have access to the Internet.
"Mission Impossible" Technology Now Possible
State of the Art technology by OverDrive has ushered in a new era for library patrons who can now select an audio book and check it out on line. This remote service enables people at home, school or work to do a virtual check out for 3 weeks. The audio books are downloaded onto the user's computer; the file can be transferred to a CD or MP3 player. After three weeks, the book is automatically "virtually" returned; self destructing, "Mission Impossible" style. A list of 400 titles, for both children and adults, are available now; new titles will be added. To explore these downloadable books go to www.library.phila.gov, click on Find, and then the link to Downloadable Audiobooks.
New Website/1st add
The new web site has a "Single Search" feature allowing users to enter a search term that generates not only a list of books and recordings, but any related programs and events the Library sponsors at any branch. The Single Search combs the library's Catalog, Calendar of Events, Electronic Resources, Digital Collections, and Knowledge Base, a unique Free Library resource. The extensive Knowledge Base is a vast body of special information compiled by the Free Library staff, some of the most experienced professional librarians in the nation; Knowledge Base includes frequently asked questions and recommended book lists.
Big Technology for the Little Learners
Another technology innovation for early learners has also been installed in branches throughout the city. The Early Literacy Station(TM) is a tailor made educational workstation specifically designed for children from 3 through 8 years of age. It includes 21 educational software packages, top rated by "Children's Technology Review," across seven curricula areas. The Free Library's 115 Early Literacy Stations(TM) contain simple visual and audio cues for young children but do not offer internet connection (assuring children only have access to age appropriate materials). The stations have no CD or floppy disk drives to catch small fingers. Each is brightly colored, extra durable, and comes with a special mouse designed for smaller hands. Conshohocken based company, AWE, developed the Early Literacy Station.(TM)
"I am very pleased that the Free Library has taken a leadership role in ensuring that everyone has access to the technology that will help them get the important things they need-to find a job, to encourage literacy and a love of learning at the earliest age, and to exercise their freedom to obtain any information that can enhance their lives," said Dianah Neff, Chief Information Officer for the City of Philadelphia. "Nearly 45% of Philadelphia households do not have computers and internet access and this city wants to close that gap. These functions are very consistent with the goals we have established to make Philadelphia an information technology leader among the first class cities of this nation."
The web site launch invited patrons and guests to try out the new services as well as continuing technologies such as the free access to the Internet and email for which people rely on the Library for vital web-based tasks like job searches. The Free Library will also continue to offer its popular "Homework Help", the Library's online "live" tutor for students. Students from the New Horizons Charter School demonstrated the new Early Literacy Stations.
About the Free Library Web Site Redesign
More than two years ago, the Free Library embarked on a redesign of its web site, which serves as the cornerstone of providing these free services. The Library's web site had not been updated in five years and included over 700 static pages; its integrated library system (which supports the library catalog) has also become obsolete. The redesign of the web site was made possible through the support of the Free Library Foundation with grants from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Christian and Mary Lindback Foundation, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Free Library's staff worked with the firm Siegel and Gale to design and develop the new web site.
About the Library Foundation
The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, a tax-exempt 501(c) (3) organization, raises funds to support special library capital projects, programs and children's services beyond those provided with public funds. The Library Foundation is responsible for the capital campaign to renovate and expand the Central Branch.