Don't be afraid to ask for help when using the public library's new computerized card catalog.
Hands-on experience is the best teacher.
That was the message from Lance Reppert, a reference librarian who recently spent about 45 minutes explaining to a group of seniors how the Lawrence Public Library's new computerized card catalog works.
"I wouldn't expect you to remember all this until you do it," he said. "It's like trying to find someone's house after you've been a passenger -- it's hard to do until you drive there yourself a few times."
Since the middle of May, library patrons have had to use a new vehicle to locate books, magazines, videotapes and other materials.
The old card catalog has been removed, forcing patrons to use a new computerized system that has been online about a year.
While the new system may seem intimidating -- especially to those who aren't used to using computers -- it contains more information and can save time.
"I think it's a tremendous improvement over what the library had," said Henry D. Remple, one of about eight seniors who attended a recent orientation session on how to use the new system. "I'm very pleased that the library has this system. I'm going to try this out a little bit."
Basic instructions on how to use the system are posted near the terminals. Reference librarians are also available to help patrons.
One of the biggest improvements the computerized card catalog offers is a search that tells the seeker whether a particular item is checked out. That saves the person from having to search for an item, only to find that it isn't at the library.
Another plus: The system is able to locate materials using keywords.
For example, the popular book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" by John Gray can be found even if you can't remember the exact title.
By punching in the keywords "Men" and "Venus," for example, the computer will show every library item containing those two words in the title.
Allen Wiechert, a library volunteer, said one of the biggest problems for people not familiar with the system is knowing where to begin.
"For most people, it's pretty user-friendly," he said. "It's a little tougher for older people who haven't used computers -- it's mainly just getting started."
"I think it will be easy once I do it," said Claramae Highfill. However, she said she would attend a second how-to session on the system.
Dorothy Maxwell, who's been a library patron for 19 years, said the system appeared to be easy to use.
Her recommendation for people intimidated by the system: "Come out and try it out. If you have trouble, they will help you."
- For a report on a firsthand experience using the new system, see Pickett Line, page 5E.