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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.

The New Year and Techology Changes

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 2, 2005

This New Year will bring several technology changes to our library system. Early in the year, OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) will be upgrading our data circuits.  These lines connect the library system to Columbus and the State Telecommunications Network.

Our library system has been identified as "near capacity" on our T-1 circuit to OPLIN. On weekday afternoons, the system is at maximum load and is slowing down with the "traffic" generated by our seven buildings. Redundant circuits that spread the computer transmissions over a system that is seven times larger will replace the existing circuits.

That is good news, as it means that our libraries are busier than ever.  Checkouts and Internet usage are at record levels requiring a larger pipeline. The State Telecommunications Network is finding that libraries are the largest users of the system, even larger than the State Lottery system.

At the same time, the automation system will be completely replaced in June.  The last replacement took place in 1993. The replacement will move us from the traditional menu-driven system to a Windows-based system, shared by 68 library systems throughout Ohio. A major component of this change will be staff training.  An estimated 1,000 library staffers across the state, and 650,000 library users use the system.

Our e-branch will also be replaced with a new web page.  This will allow us to bring all of the information networks and databases to the forefront so library users can find and use them more effectively.

The Digital Shoebox Project, 24 X 7 Reference Service, e-books, and the commercial information databases are making library use something done from your home computer.

On a somber note for librarians, last week was the end of operations for the Southwest Library Center of the State Library of Ohio. In the 1970s, the State Library of Ohio operated six Centers around Ohio, providing regional library services to the public.

With the closure of Southwest, only the SEO Library Center remains in operation, located in Caldwell, Ohio. The Southwest Center provided materials to all Ohio Libraries through its collection.  Fortunately, unique materials were transferred to the SEO Library Center for continued usage.

Four years ago, the State Library of Ohio in Columbus was forced to move to rented facilities after the Ohio Supreme Court took over the library's 1931 building. Now, with State Budget cuts and rent increases, the State Library must balance its budget by reducing staff and services. 

The Ohio Supreme Court now occupies the 1931 building, which has undergone $ 83 million dollars worth of renovation.
The State Library of Ohio is in a building north of downtown Columbus, and must pay $ 1.6 million dollars in rent annually.

So, with the Internet and online bookstores, how important are libraries?  2004 has been a banner year for Ohio's public libraries.  Usage will likely break an all-time record. 20 million connections were made to the OPLIN web site, and 4 million database inquiries were made from all over Ohio.

Libraries today are part of the information network of our society; we just have lots more tools to use in finding information.