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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Shawnee library's goal remains as methods change

  • Growing up in McLoud, Lisa Lempges didn't have a access to a library in her town.

    Fortunately for the self-proclaimed book lover, the library actually came to her in the form of a “bookmobile” sponsored by the Shawnee Library.
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  • Growing up in McLoud, Lisa Lempges didn’t have a access to a library in her town.
    Fortunately for the self-proclaimed book lover, the library actually came to her in the form of a “bookmobile” sponsored by the Shawnee Library.
    “We thought we were doing great things when we had the bookmobile coming once per week,” Lempges said.
    The bookmobile was a way for the Shawnee Library to give access to information and ideas to people without access to them. In some ways, it was a precursor to the Internet.
    Lempges, now Information Services Manager at the Shawnee Library, an affiliate of the regional Pioneer Library System, said the Internet has revolutionized the way the library guides people to the information they seek.
    Like a bookmobile with an infinite number of books.
    “It’s not limited to the space we have, it can be much faster and more efficient and it’s multiplied our access a million times over,” she said.
    Lempges, who has been working at the Shawnee Library for the last seven or eight years, said in the past the library would collect scores of encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries and other reference books. All of them expensive.
    “Now we still have reference books, but we have pared down our reference book collection enormously to use online resources,” she said.
    The Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, announced it would stop printing physical copies of its books in 2012.
    The Shawnee Library still has physical reference books available but is using more of its money on subscriptions to scholarly online search engines and databases.
    Reference books aren’t the only ones losing ground to the Internet. Many of the novels, music and movies in the library are available for download or streaming on the Pioneer Library System’s website.
    “We will always have print resources,” Lempges said, “however in recent years and in the coming year, we will be expanding even more into downloadable services.”
    People who once had to travel to brick and mortar library locations for information or entertainment can now access that same information — and more — without leaving home.
    “We have access to our collections 24-7 now,” Lempges said. “The downloadable stuff from our website is available anytime from anywhere. If you have an internet connection and you’re on vacation on the beach, you can download a magazine to read or download an audiobook to read on the plane on your way home.”
    Though technology has greatly increased access to information, the librarian’s main goal, to connect people with the information and reading materials they seek, is unchanged, Lempges said.
    Page 2 of 2 - It’s true that people can search and find information on the Internet without the library, but Lempges said a librarian can help someone cut through search engine clutter that can be filled with biased, inaccurate or just plain wrong information.
    Lempges said an important job librarians have is to not just finding reliable information for community members but teaching them how to get to that reliable information on their own.  
    The Shawnee Library has 24 Internet-connected computers available for public use, and they’re in use nearly all day, Lempges said.
    She estimates community members racked up as many as 64,000 computer sessions last year.
    “We are the only point of access for a lot of people in the community who don’t have their own Internet service,” she said.
    New technology has also changed the way in which librarians guide people to the information they seek.
    “In some ways it’s much easier, but in other ways it’s much more challenging,” she said. “I know a little bit about a lot of things, but the good thing is I don’t have to know everything. I just have to know how to find it.”
    The search is the part of Lempges’s job, she said. Through thousands of questions, she’s learned a lot about the world and even more about people.
    “The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new every day,” she said.

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