The information highway has a new on ramp in Citrus County.
Monday, Citrus County Library Board chairman Edward Renfro cut the blue ribbon on a computer terminal at Coastal Region Library and the library system sped into the future.
"This is a major milestone," Renfro said.
The computer system links the county's libraries and can become a part of "one gigantic state network," according to Vanda Carns, library systems manager.
That eventuality "may be 20 years away . . . but that is the idea, to have total resource sharing between all statewide libraries, no matter what type it is," she said.
County Administrator Tony Shoemaker and other county leaders were on hand for the unveiling of the system at the library.
County commissioner Frank Schiraldi took the first turn at the terminal under the guidance of Heidi Abbott, director of the library system. When he discovered that he could call up minutes of previous commission meetings, a chorus of "find the delete button" and "push delete" went up from his fellow commissioners.
The old card catalog most people grew up with will be removed in August. The new system offers library patrons "five times more access to material that we already own," said Abbott, by allowing users to tell at a keystroke if a book is available anywhere within the system.
"It will be one-stop shopping," Schiraldi said.
The system was paid for through a State Library of Florida grant of $253,000, with matching funds of $176,000 from Citrus County. Each branch of the library system will have terminals available.
The 50,000 Citrus County library cards in circulation soon will be replaced with cards that will allow patrons to reserve books through the computer system. For the time being, librarians can request books for patrons.
Although librarians say the system is simple to use, they have provided informational brochures and cards at each terminal to ease the transition for patrons.
They also will conduct training sessions for interested patrons at these libraries: Beverly Hills, 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday; Coastal Region 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. March 12 and 2 to 3 p.m. March 13; and Lakes Region Library, 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, and 2 to 3 p.m. March 12.
For library patrons who still feel uncertain about this step into the future, they can take heart from Schiraldi who observed after his efforts that at least "it didn't blow up."