St. Louis, Missouri, USA -- September 1, 1995: Upgrading from its 1970s-era, home-grown library automation system, the Dallas Public Library, Texas, recently selected a Data Research System -- incorporating many of the newest services available from DRA -- to provide a wide range of library automation services for its central library and 22 branches.
With more than 3.5 million visitors each year, the Dallas Public Library is a popular area resource, more highly attended by residents than are the Dallas Cowboy football games, the city's Hard Rock Cafe or its local Six Flags over Texas. "We're a big-hearted, and just plain big, Texas library," says Gail Bialas, Library Spokesperson. The library has achieved its popularity by heavily emphasizing customer service.
The task force that selected the Data Research System found that the system seemed to best match the vision that the Dallas Public Library had developed for its new library automation system. The task force envisioned using networked microcomputer workstations with color monitors to provide text, sound and video in the library's public catalog. Members felt that DRA Find provided a very close fit with the prototype system they used as a concept piece in early demonstrations of their dream for a new system. They also have expressed hope that Open DRA Net will allow the library to provide expanded information to its users.
DRA Find is DRA's powerful, yet easy-to-use reference workstation, based on the Microsoft Windows GUI platform; and Open DRA Net is a unique collection of network resources, featuring a common interface to numerous resources outside the library's own walls.
The library was founded in 1901, in part with funding from the Carnegie Foundation. "The driving force behind the effort for a library," says Bialas, "were women of high profile in the city, who had formed a Shakespeare Club and who provided the genesis for literary interest in the area."
Nearly a century later, the Shakespeare Club still supports the library, which now includes services not envisioned in 1901. Today, the library enjoys a circulation of approximately four million items each year. Its offerings include the largest genealogy resource in the southwest U.S., and an impressive collection of historic photographs. Its photographic collection dates back to the 1860s, and includes prints of the notorious Depression-era gangsters Bonnie and Clyde. The library's rare-book collection includes Shakespeare's first folio, and the only copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence west of the Mississippi -- printed July 4, 1776.
To meet the needs of a diverse population, GED and English as a Second Language programs help some of the state's newer members adapt to becoming U.S. citizens. Special phone lines enable people to call for stock quotes, and a grant information area helps residents apply for and receive federal grants. A writer's study room is one of only two such rooms in the country, with works produced in the facility ranging from a biography of former Governor Ann Richards to a study of classic Hellenism.
For the library's younger patrons, an award-winning children's center sponsors a reading club in which more than 13,000 children participated this summer. The center also includes a children's theater, a computer village, a story-telling forest, and a children's literature collection, nationally recognized for its richness and variety. Plus, the library offers homework centers in some of its branches; and a special teenage area, where borrowers can find career, college and family planning information.
Bialas says, "Dallas is a large, cosmopolitan city -- the eighth largest in the U.S. -with a population of people who have many different histories. This system allows us to make our collection available to such a population, by offering capabilities in different languages and with a lot of visual aids. DRA will help us make our system even more accessible, friendly and easy to use."
Data Research Associates, headquartered in St. Louis, is a leading systems integrator for libraries and other information providers, offering its own proprietary information services software; third-party software and hardware; Internet, World Wide Web and other networking services; and other related support services.