For years, staff at the River Forest Public Library wanted a virtual branch that was as warm and inviting as the physical one on Lathrop Avenue. 

That day has arrived.

After several months of planning, the library has launched a brighter, more user-friendly website with many features right at one’s fingertips.

Key tasks that patrons seek out — using the catalogue, accessing their account, finding out the hours and telephone number and learning what’s going on there — are prominently placed on the site.

The larger typeface will make it easier for seniors to read, said Sue Quinn, the library’s director.

It also is more mobile friendly, with a chat service that patrons can use during business hours if they have a reference question or technical difficulties with the site, said Margaret Banerji, the library’s head of virtual services and the project manager for the re-do of the website. 

The site also focuses on the library’s traditional and non-traditional collections. Books are displayed prominently. But when the website was last upgraded in 2011, the library didn’t have as many digital resources and those they had were harder to locate. 

So the library focused some needed attention on a growing piece of the library’s collection. Through one portal, a user can download e-books, e-magazines, stream movies and music and get an online tutorial on learning to speak a foreign language, Banerji said. 

“We are hoping we can do more to make people more aware that we have a really great collection. We are hoping that usage of digital collections will increase now that they are easier to find,” Quinn said.

On the back end, the site will be easier to update so it remains fresh and current, Banerji said. It also will be easier to find out what pages and services patrons use more, she added.

“We will definitely be able to find out how many people are accessing The Atlantic or Knitting Magazine. This will help us make some choices [on the collection],” Quinn said. 

Users wanting to learn more about the institution’s history, read the minutes from the last board of trustees meeting and offer suggestions, that information is easier to find at the bottom of the site, Quinn said. 

The library is the latest taxing district to upgrade its website. The park district’s last retooling was in March 2015. The village last improved its website in 2011 and is assessing a re-do as part of its overall communications strategy. River Forest Township also is looking into how to upgrade its site.

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