On a beautiful, breezy Saturday afternoon, the Lakewood Library is bustling with activity. Young children sit on the floor and turn the pages of colorful picture books while adults sit at tables and read the latest issues of news magazines.
A boy who has been searching through the titles of paperback novels stops at the information desk for help in locating a specific book about dragons. Branch manager Betty Brown quickly types his request into the library’s aging computer, locates a copy at a branch across town and orders it transferred to Lakewood the next week.
The boy’s request brings together the three things Brown loves best about her work: putting the right person with the right book, helping young people become excited about reading and meeting another person who enjoys fantasy fiction.
In her 25 years with the Dallas Public Library System – nine of them at the Lakewood branch – Brown has helped match up thousands of readers with books and other information they were seeking. She also has experienced several generations of technological changes that have made it easier to keep track of library materials.
The card catalogs she learned about in college and worked with early in her career have been all but extinct for more than a decade.
And currently scheduled for this fall, the Dallas libraries will take another leap into high-tech heaven when a new computer system with features that are more user-friendly and more powerful becomes available to librarians and patrons. Delays could postpone the computer conversion to early winter, Brown says.
“At Lakewood, we will have about twice as many terminals as we do now, and they will be more like the computer people use at work and school,” Brown says.
In addition to a catalog of library materials, the new computers are expected to have CD-ROM databases with access to up-to-the-minute reference materials, nationwide telephone directories and other resources. Some computers may even have Internet capability, Brown says.
“There’s so much more reference information that’s computerized and stays more up-to-date in general on computers now than when you had to wait for a book or encyclopedia to be republished,” Brown says. “I’m sure at some point they’ll make computers as small as paperback books, but I think there will always be books.”
After all, she says, it’s hard to curl up at night with a computer, and even if you could, it just wouldn’t be as nice as thumbing through a book.
When Brown checks out a book for herself, it’s usually a mystery or science fiction novel. Her favorite authors include Anne McCaffrey and B.J. Shute.
“Nowadays, I read for escape,” she says. “And I don’t read many big, thick books anymore.”
At home with her two dogs in the Little Forest Hills neighborhood, Brown enjoys her peaceful surroundings and her collectibles.
As hobbies, she finds interesting decorative tins and music boxes, as well as “netsuke,” tiny antique carved toggles that were used on Japanese kimono sashes to attach a purse-like box called an “inro.”
The one thing you won’t find Brown collecting on shelves at home is books. She finds everything she needs at the office.