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New library standards to enhance online access

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Hoosiers will have more access to the Internet and to public library materials across the state under a new set of standards adopted by the Indiana State Library and Historical Board, library officials said Monday.

The Board unanimously approved the new requirements on Jan. 15 this year, and they will take effect Jan. 1, 2011, pending approval from the governor and attorney general.

The standards center on giving patrons more access to the Internet, requiring libraries to have a set number of computers determined by the size of the population they serve.

"Many people in all areas of the state, whether it be rural or urban, don't have access at their home," Drew Griffiths, spokesman for the State Library, said Monday. "They rely on their public libraries to access the Internet."

Libraries are also required to maintain a Web site and online library catalog accessible from any computer connected to the Internet.

Deputy State Librarian Jim Corridan said this requirement was potentially the most costly of the standards but that the State Library would provide free software to offset costs.

Public libraries can get a free Web site through the State Library. Corridan said the State Library would cover the cost of hosting and training, while the libraries would maintain the sites.

The State Library also provides free software to help libraries build a required online catalog. Evergreen Indiana is an automated system that allows libraries to put their catalogs online. It automatically tracks catalog information at all Evergreen libraries. Corridan said about 70 libraries — nearly a third of the state's public libraries — are already using Evergreen. They system allows patrons to check out materials from any Evergreen library and return them to any network library.

The new requirements have three levels of compliance, resulting in basic, enhanced, and exceptional designations. Griffiths said more than half of the state's libraries already meet the new criteria, while many others required only minor changes.

Library Director Laurel Setser said the Avon-Washington Township Public Library meets the new standards, mostly at the enhanced level. She said the goal was to eventually reach the exceptional designation, but that she was worried about how that will happen financially.

"I think the flip side will be the money issue, and the financial resources it will take to reach some of those exemplary levels," Setser said. "I think we're all concerned about what the revenue will be in the next couple years, so there may be some tough decisions that will have to be made whether we can meet exemplary goals."

Griffiths said the aim of the new standards was to standardize and maximize the services provided to Hoosiers.

"Basically, the goal is to have equitable access at public libraries throughout the state in terms of library services," he said. "Indiana's already known as one of the best in terms of library services. This sort of just ensures that we continue to be among the nation's best."

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