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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Computers in the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 1, 2011

The first computers in libraries were connected to a huge main frame system, usually located remotely in a “computer center.”


Sometimes the connection to the computer system was made with the handset of a telephone nestled into a “cradle” with audible sounds beeping back and forth to transmit data.


It was always large libraries that had computer connections back in those days.


My first hands-on experience with computers and libraries was with an electric typewriter that held a small memory which could repeat characters stored in the typewriter.


That was quickly enhanced by cassettes and floppy discs that served as storage for small amounts of information.


Our library system saw its first computers in 1988 when the circulation of library materials was done with online terminals.


In 25 years, we have seen libraries revolutionized with computer technology of all sorts introduced and part of the daily operations of most libraries.


Public libraries have become the place for everyone to access computers and the Internet, whether they have the capability from home or office.


Our library system is completing the installation and upgrading of our entire computer network thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, e-rate funds, and cooperation from the Ohio Public Library Information Network.


It is actually a process that never ends, as there is always software to be upgraded and replaced, equipment to be replaced and enlarged, and training on new operations of computers.


The Gates Grant allowed for public computer replacement at our branches in Adena, Dillonvale, Tiltonsville, Brilliant, and Toronto.


Further upgrades will include the equipment that keeps the library connected to the Internet through the state communications system, as well as the wireless systems that are operating in all of our libraries to allow the public to connect to the Internet.


OPLIN is upgrading the connections to our Schiappa Branch with A T & T to allow the ever-increasing computer load to be accommodated.


The library pays $ 70,000 a year for communication costs for all of our locations, aided by discounts, contracts, and grants, to operate 130 computers in 7 locations.

This year we plan to enhance the printing and production capabilities for people using the Internet, from faxing to zip drives to downloading of files.


We also need to upgrade our ability to handle the information that is on microfilm.  Those old readers are being replaced with scanning equipment that pulls the information and sends it electronically to a computer.


It is never done, it is never complete.  Once one part of the library is upgraded, something else is waiting for the next Release of software.


Lurking on the horizon in 2012 is a major upgrade of our automation system to make it more compatible with the Internet and everyone’s hand-held devices.

Oh, that reminds me that we need to order book repair tape for mending books.


Think I am kidding, no afraid not.  With all of this technology swirling around the library, we are also keeping a book collection new and updated, as well as DVDs, CDs, and books on CD, not to mention the e-books that are available for download.


And don’t forget the children’s programming and Summer Reading Club, and the Reading Clubs that meet around the county in our libraries.


The other day, I noticed a man sitting in one of the winged back chairs by the mantel piece.  He was reading a book until his lap top beeped, and he linked to the library wireless.


Would Andrew Carnegie mind that Internet signals are bouncing off his marble floors?