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Our area's libraries are bringing new technology to attract, assist patrons
by Yolanda Putman
Tuesday, March 25, 2014    |   
Librarian of the Year Corinne Hill poses for a portrait at the Public Library in downtown Chattanooga.
Librarian of the Year Corinne Hill poses for a portrait at the Public Library in downtown Chattanooga.

Area libraries are using the latest technology and interactive programs to draw patrons, but a few of them are struggling to survive.

"A lot has changed," said Corinne Hill, the Chattanooga Public Library's executive director and Library Journal's 2014 Librarian of the Year.

Gone are the days when libraries were warehouses for books that nobody read unless they were doing a report. If people aren't checking books out or using an area in the library, Hill is among the modern-day librarians trying to find better use for the space.

Library Journal named her its Librarian of the Year for her ability to transform the Chattanooga downtown library, a place library consultants called "irrelevant" and "mismanaged" in 2009, into a community destination.

Removing old pictures and furniture from the downtown library's fourth floor, Hill turned it into a community meeting center. It's also a place with modern technology, including flatbed scanners, gigabit Internet service and 3-D printers to serve entrepreneurs or anyone else who wants to use them.

The first floor of the library now has a coffee shop and Hill convinced the city of Chattanooga to pay for upgraded computers since the existing ones hadn't been replaced in 10 years.

One of the library's latest projects is a sensory storytime to reach school-age children with special needs. The storytime is designed to engage kids through movement, music, stories and activity play. It is designed for children with autism spectrum disorders, sensory integration challenges or who have difficulty sitting still.

Hill said her goal is to have a library that meets people's needs. To do so, she has hired staff members who have the ability to figure out useful services and make them happen.

In Georgia, the Catoosa County Public Library is also bringing in new exhibits and technology for its patrons.

"We hope folks from all around the area will visit us soon," said Darla Chambliss, library director.

The library will provide high-speed fiber Internet service starting this summer. It will also host the Georgia Museum's traveling Holocaust Exhibit June 1-June 30. The exhibit will be installed in the library and be a part of the new Adult Summer Reading Program. The library also will offer notary public and test proctoring services to students this spring.

The Catoosa County Library also is upgrading its children's programming to include a kid-sized computing area with new technologies including Google Chrome boxes, Chromebooks and an assortment of tablets and e-readers that will introduce children to new story forms.

"Having fun is not hard," Chambliss said. "You just need a library card."

But some libraries are fighting hard just to stay open.

The Rossville Public Library is among four Northwest Georgia libraries in the Cherokee Regional Library system. It has been struggling to remain open for at least the past two years, manager Carmella Clark said. Budget cuts caused it to reduce its staff and the hours of staff who survived after cuts. The Rossville City Council cut the library's annual funding by about $12,000.

But library officials said enough public donations could signal to Rossville government that the library is needed. The library's goal is to raise about $20,000 in an online fundraiser. Those who want to donate may go to www.saverossvillelibrary.org.

Despite funding problems, the library still provides story time for children, a monthly family movie night and a host of books, DVDs and CDs that may be checked out to the public.

"If you love your library, please give, because it is in jeopardy if we can't meet budget," Clark said. "People think that they gave one year and the problem is all fixed, but it doesn't work like that. We need people to keep giving until we get through this rough patch."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.