Borrowing is up at Orland Park Public Library. (Dennis Sullivan, Special to the Tribune)

Eight months after pulling out of a shared-materials network used by 80 libraries, Orland Park Public Library reports borrowing is up by more than 15 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

Library staff reported at the December board of trustees meeting that the amount of printed and audio-materials circulated was up 17 percent in November compared to November 2012. And library spokesperson Bridget Bittman said growth has been as high as 28 to 30 percent, terming it "steady increases."

She credits the still-new standalone Polaris system, which enables the library to order and acquire, receive and invoice, catalog, circulate, and track materials such as books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and more. The system limits library-catalog access to the approximately 34,000 cardholders and to non-cardholders visiting the library, thereby reducing how long patrons wait for audio-visual materials and books.

"We're able to keep more and more copies of popular items on our shelves," she said. The Hunger Games, James Patterson's thrillers and other books in demand "stay in Orland Park."

The library, which serves 450,000 visitors a year, was one of the largest participants in the System Wide Automated Network. But Orland Park patrons sometimes couldn't find something in the local collection of more than 268,000 items because it had been lent to a participating library somewhere lese in northern Illinois.

"Our copies would go all over," Bittman said, adding, "They were always out."

To further reduce wait time for high-demand materials, the library has established a new procedure, she said. "For every three holds we have on a popular book, we'll buy another copy."

Bittman said the Polaris system gives the library "more electronic amenities," noting it replaces phone calls with text messaging to notify borrowers that a requested item is available. Early issues with emails, holds and inter-library loan requests have been resolved and the system is proving to be more reliable, she said..

"The SWAN system would go down frequently," she said. "The Polaris system only went down once -- for an hour," she said.

Library officials say the new system, installed at a cost roughly equivalent to a four-year membership in SWAN, also means more money can be spent on expanding collections.

And Orland Park library materials are still available to other libraries' cardholders through interlibrary loan and reciprocal borrowing.

The Polaris system "doesn't prevent Orland Park patrons from going to other libraries," Bittman said.

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