The Oak Park Public Library is about to make a change that will give village residents more than four times as many books, movie and CD titles from which to choose.

Starting July 14, the library will be joining SWAN – a group of 80 different libraries in the area. And with that, Oak Park will be able to offer patrons free and easy access to more than one million titles from neighboring libraries.

The library has been working on moving over to SWAN (which stands for System Wide Access Network of the Metropolitan Library System) for the past year and a half. Joining the system was complicated, required approval from all 80 libraries in December 2008 and the Oak Park library’s board of directors in January 2009, said Executive Director Deidre Brennan.

Joining SWAN also involved entering all 215,000 titles that Oak Park owns into the system and upgrading its computers.

“It’s a huge project because we’ve been a stand-alone library for several years now,” Brennan said.

When SWAN goes live on July 14, patrons will have the option to search Oak Park’s catalogue, or the entire group of 80 libraries, via computer. The library plans to hold classes sometime in early July to teach people how to use the new system.

The local library was previously a member of SWAN, but it left in the mid 1990s to become a stand-alone library according to Brennan, who came to Oak Park in 2006.

“SWAN was on a very old-fashioned system, and when you’ve got 80 libraries, it takes awhile to make things happen,” Brennan said. “So, Oak Park was able to be more nimble and just thought they could go off and get their own system … They made the best decision at the time, I’m sure.”

Residents could still access SWAN in some way over the past 15 years, but not through the local library’s computers.

Oak Park will spend about $100,000 to migrate over to SWAN, along with an annual fee of $60,000. The library was previously paying about $40,000 to be part of its current system and $25,000 a year to have its collection catalogued, which Brennan says they will no longer have to pay.

The library will have to make a handful of small changes to ensure that Oak Park is in line with other SWAN libraries. Late fees for books and CDs – which Oak Parkers will now be able to pay online – will jump from 20 cents a day to 25 cents, while DVD fines will remain at $1. Patrons will be locked out from renting items when they accumulate $5 in fines, rather than the current $15.

With the increased catalogue, Oak Parkers will be able to check out a total of 200 CDs, DVDs and books at one time, up from the current 100 (or only seven DVDs).

Alerts for held items will now be handled by SWAN, and will travel only through snail mail or e-mail, as the library eliminates its “obsolete” automated alerts over the phone, Brennan said.

The library first started looking at SWAN when Brennan joined the organization in 2006, and really started working on the switchover about two and a half years ago. Oak Park was going to need to swap systems, anyway, with changes happening at their current software provider.

“The disadvantages to our patrons were quite substantial, in terms of what they had access to, so that kind of put it over the top,” Brennan said.


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