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The Dane County library system may be one of the best, and unassuming, resources in South Central Wisconsin. And with its outreach programs, online databases and other modern services, this system does far more than merely provide books to check out.

Aside from traditional books on any topic imaginable, there are audio books, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, magazines and newspapers available at any of the 19 public libraries in Dane County. And for smaller communities such as the town of Dane or Brooklyn that do not own a full-service library, the Bookmobile is readily available once a week.

According to Julie Chase, director of the DCLS, the Bookmobile functions as a traveling mini-library. Used mostly by families, the Bookmobile is a specialty vehicle built into a city bus frame, with bookshelves inside. Chase said it is one of the most heavily used services the library system offers.

Library cards are needed to check out materials from both actual libraries and the Bookmobile. Cards are free and can be used at any Dane County library, no matter where the card was issued. A picture ID and proof of residence, such as a piece of mail, are the only things needed to get one. Once a person has a library card, the online databases become easily accessible from home, or wherever there is a high-speed Internet connection.

"Available on any library's Web site are full-text magazine-style databases," Chase said. "There are research databases, newspaper indexes, information on everything from car repair to public library consortiums." Check out the easy-to-use site at www.scls.lib.wi.us/dcl/index.html.

Although libraries are still used primarily to check out items, Chase noted that computer use at libraries has increased considerably.

"We get a lot more job searches, a lot more resume building. It's virtually impossible to apply for a job in many places unless you can do it online," she said. "People come here to do that, which is a change from three or four years ago."

Even with the surge in Web site usage, patrons still cannot order a book online and have it delivered to their home; that service is reserved for the Homebound and Handicapped outreach program.

For clients who are unable to use the library because they cannot leave their home, books can be delivered directly to them.

With libraries all across Dane County brimming with resources and information, don't hesitate to check out your local library today.

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