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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.

E-Rate Discounts

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 05, 2006

 

 

The approval of our library's E-Rate Funding for 2006-2007 was received in October, more than $ 32,000 for one year.

 

E-Rate funding provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain telecommunications and Internet access.

 

A universal fee is charged to companies providing interstate and international telecommunications services, and that fee returns to the Universal Service Fund.

 

The Federal Communications Commission, through the Universal Service Administrative Fund, administers that Fund.

 

Schools and libraries receive discounts from providers of telecommunications services, based on the level of subsidies provided by local school lunch programs.

 

The library system's discount is based on the five school districts in the county, and is calculated at a 63% discount, which is applied to the billing from the "phone companies."

 

Our library system has 26 phone lines entering our seven buildings, with the Main Library, Schiappa Branch, and Toronto Branch bundled into a centrex system.

 

Each building has a T-1 high-speed data circuit for online communications, connecting to the State of Ohio hub in Columbus.

 

Our library system has 100 computers connected to the Internet through these data systems.

 

Wow, have times changed!

 

When I started with the library system in 1983, we had a mechanical switching unit for the phone system and two lines.

 

If you looked carefully, you could see "AT2-9782" under the newer stickers on the heavy black phones.

 

The fax machine operated by placing the handset of the telephone into a "cradle" with took 6 minutes to transmit one page of information.

 

Like all Ohio libraries, until 1972 we had received one free telephone per library building, paying for only long-distance phone calls.

 

The first computers to access data outside of the library were dial-access over a regular telephone connection.

 

Eventually, a dedicated circuit took data to the computer center, shared with the Cadiz Library to reduce costs.

 

Ohio Libraries are fortunate to have OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network, formed in 1995 to allow public libraries to link together and use state contracts for telecommunications services.

 

Regardless, our library system spends $ 55,000 per year for all these telecommunications services.

 

Thank goodness for the discounts of the E-Rate Program to assist in those costs.

 

Applications for E-Rate funding begin each year in November, and continue through February for the next July 1 - June 30 funding cycle.

 

The program is in its 9th year of operation.  In the last 2 years, the State Library of Ohio has sponsored workshops around the state to assist libraries with the application process.

 

What are the predictions for the next decade of data services?  More, more, more bandwidth for information since video and graphics require a larger "pipeline" than text information.

 

In the 21st Century, much of our information is literally "floating in the air," rather than sitting on a shelf.