PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
This week our computer network is undergoing its periodic software upgrade to enhance the system and expand its operational quality.
This process happens a couple times a year to address issues in the system and expand into new areas of service to the public.
With 90 library systems in the network, the process of upgrading is far more complex than when there were only 4 of us in the system in 1990.
The upgrade this week will be the first time that it is completely accomplished at nighttime without interrupting the daily operations. (At least that is the plan)
With the faster speeds of new systems, and the further enhancement of the systems, it is now possible to perform the upgrade within the nighttime hours.
The upgrade contains nearly 50 upgrades, most of which will not likely be noticeable to the public and staff. Others will eventually allow more and different access points for information retrieval.
I am still astonished at the advancement of information technology within only one generation.
When I was in library school, the access to information centered around traditional books with the use of 3 x 5 cards that were produced either by typewriter or using huge auto-generated printers.
I actually sat in a classroom while the professor counted off the spaces needed between the author entry and the title entry. 1-2-3 nine, nine. The manual typewriters pounded away.
Now there is public access to the library database from home and office, as well as smart phones through the Facebook App.
The library system has been using Facebook as an information point for over 5 years, with some 1,083 people signed up as a Friend of the library; a number that is now rapidly growing.
Facebook serves as an information tool for the library, with that information automatically added to Twitter and feeding back and forth. (Imagine if I had said that line to someone in 1977)
The library webpage has been active since 1996, also providing an information access point for the library system.
Our new library webpage will go live in August, providing smoother connections to the library and our online databases, and an internal look at library operations and services.
And that’s what makes the public library unique in today’s information age. There are always new services and ways of contacting the library, but the old ways remain.
You can connect on Facebook, or call the library by telephone using the same number that rang into the library’s black phone on the circulation desk in 1948.
You can request a book online through the Facebook App, or you can call and talk to a real human librarian and they will place the request for you.
The E-Book link connects to over 50,000 online books that will download into your iPad, or you can check out a physical book to take home and read.
Any of our libraries can fax materials for you or to you, we can place the information in the snail mail, or we can scan and e-mail the information to you.
You can sit with your laptop computer and link via the library’s WiFi under the portrait of Andrew Carnegie who had no knowledge of such things.
I can sit and use book glue to reattach a broken book cover, or place a DVD in a high-speed buffer to allow it to be used another 50 times.
I am sure that Andrew Carnegie would be pleased with his libraries in 2013, as he always desired the common man to use his gifts to society.
He may not understand the new team of Bill and Melinda Gates that are now supporting public libraries, but I am positive he would invite them on board.