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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.

Communicating with the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 11, 2015


The recent holidays brought together family members for feasts of celebration, and my brother and I commented that “we” are now the senior members of the clan.


As such, we were given the more comfortable chairs in the living room, and we were both placed at the ends of the large table.


We also noticed that the afternoon of family sharing was interrupted this year with the younger generation and their laptops and iPad, which was a surprise to me since it is common knowledge that my brother’s house is within a “cell phone dead zone” meaning that any amount of pounding of those creatures will yield nothing --- not even a whimper of a sound from a smart or dumb cell phone.


Well, new this year was the addition of satellite Internet service to that Hall household, and the young folks had a way of transmitting data and linking with the outside world’s cell service.


Oh well, there went the afternoon of conversation, so I figured that perhaps if we talked about today’s online communication, we might resurrect some of the conversation, at least with my son the computer and electrical engineer.


Actually, this all relates to the library as we are constantly trying to figure out how to communicate with our customers for library services, as well as share with the general public all of the resources that our library system has to offer in this world of rapidly changing information transmission.


One of my first jobs in a public library in 1970 was to type (yes, on a manual typewriter which we called a peck-a-lator) overdue notices on post cards which were mailed to library patrons with overdue books.


The fact that their books were overdue was confirmed by the long trays of book cards filed by the date the book was due to be returned, and then converted to an overdue file.  So, the U.S. mail service was the first method of communication a generation ago.


The second method began about the same time as the U.S. mail, the telephone.  Most community telephone systems provided FREE phone service to the public library as early as 1880.


The FREE part of phone service disappeared with a decision of the Public Service Commission in the 1930s although a few companies continued into the 1970s, but I can assure you that library systems pay a dear fee for the service today.


When I arrived here in 1983, we were still using a key cabinet rotary unit to move calls around the building.  Today, we have 26 lines access the library system and providing fax service.


Fax service began here in 1976 with what was then called “telefaxscimile” service requiring 6 minutes to transmit one page of information.


Since computers, it has been a constant upgrading and change of various data lines to our current trunk line to Columbus and OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network).  All I know is that as soon as the service is upgraded, it needs to be upgraded again.


My colleagues in the rest of Ohio are always amazed at the limited options available to SE Ohio, or the fact that two of our branches remain without fiber optic services.


So in 2015, if you want to use the library, you can still use the telephone and talk to a real human being, or send us mail, e-mail us through the web page, use the online catalog, post to our Facebook page, or walk in the front door of any of our seven locations or a bookmobile stop.


These options will be expanding in 2015.  The younger people in my family say that they have all closed their Facebook accounts since so many “old people” like me have finally figured out Facebook; so we will be expanding to the newer options that young people now use.


The day after the holiday meal, we all went into town, and I volunteered to drive.  The reason was that this has happened before and about halfway to civilization all the cell phones came to life nearly causing an accident if one of the younger set was driving.


I still buy post card stamps.