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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.

Broadband Connections @ the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 15, 2012

Later this year, the library system will be upgrading our computer circuits to Broadband service to provide us with faster Internet speeds.


Internet availability and line speeds are important to all of our libraries, for public computer use as well as the operation of computer services for databases and library operations.


It has been 25 years since we began using computer circuitry in library operations, and over the years the speed and capacity has been increased several times as computer usage has continued to grow.


ARRA grants are allowing the expansion of Broadband service to SE Ohio through Horizon Telecom, and I am pleased that the library system will be able to take advantage of this expansion of services.


The massive downloads on the computers of today require continued faster computer circuit speeds.


Our first connection was done in 1988, and consisted of dedicated long-distance phone lines with multiplexers on each end that moved the simple binary codes across the lines.


In those days, we were linked to libraries in Cadiz, St. Clairsville, and Woodsfield to move our data to the Computer Center.


Each line could accommodate up to 16 “terminals” sending data back and forth.


By 1993, we had retired our card catalogs and replaced them with computers accessing a text-based system that looked like 3 x 5 cards typed online.

In 1995, the state network of libraries, called OPLIN, was instituted to bring libraries into the state telecommunications center in Columbus, and link us with the new world of the Internet.


Several servers and routers later, we are moving to Broadband service which will expand the system to several times the capacity of the current line speeds.


The whole process of bringing Broadband service to SE Ohio can be equated to the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) which was formed in 1935 to bring electricity to rural areas.


If your city had streetcar service in the early part of the 20th Century, you likely received its electricity from the same source.


If you lived in a rural area, it wasn’t as likely that any company was rushing to bring electricity to your doorstep.


In 1934, only 11 percent of rural America had access to electrical service, but by 1952 nearly all areas were “electrified” through the efforts of the REA.


I have watched a similar process take place in Jefferson County with Internet accessibility, where one side of the street has high-speed Internet and the other side has only dial-access service.


It is essential that each of our library locations have Broadband computer access, as our ability to provide the service to the public, and have the service for us to use with the public is essential.


Also pushing the need will be our upgrade to the new Symphony computer system to manage our library collections, their circulation, and access to databases and eBooks.


The system will include some 85 library systems around Ohio, and over 7 million library holdings that can be borrowed and used by anyone within any of the library systems being served.


I must confess to being overwhelmed by the advancement and changes in public libraries just within my career.


How would Melvil Dewey have reacted to all of this change?  Well, his decimal classification of the world of information remains today because he constructed it with flexibility to accommodate whatever came along.


He died in 1931, yet his classification tables still contain enough pieces to work in 2012.


Hopefully, the same will be true of Broadband; the pipelines of data contain enough flexibility to expand as the Internet needs expand.