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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.

40 Million Queries from the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 21, 2016

This year, the library system will yield almost 40 million computer “queries” from our system computers, both staff and public systems.


That includes all 135 computers operating within our system including all the servers and other equipment that makes the system operate.


From the Adena Branch to the Toronto Branch and all locations in-between, as well as the Bookmobile that moves around all over the county; that humming sound is information pouring in and out of your public library system.


And yes, this information is difficult for me to comprehend; seems like a whole bunch of data flowing in and out of the library system.


Each time there is a software upgrade, something new becomes available and the most recent upgrade to our DNS product allows the gathering of all kinds of new information.


Now we can see statistics for each of the 135 computers in our network, and how each one is used statistically speaking so we can better plan the use of resources.


The reports show how much data is moving around the county and accessing the 100Mb trunk line that goes to Columbus to join us into the Internet.  In the average week, there are 800,000 computer queries moving into that fiber optic link.


Our network contains all fiber optic systems now, except for our branch libraries in Toronto and Adena which still operate on the standard 1.5Mb lines.


Toronto is close to having fiber optic, as we are using e-Rate funding and a contract with Horizon Services to bring fiber optic to the library shortly.  It is our one location that needs an upgrade as soon as possible.


Adena seems to operate within its current parameters.


Our whole area suffers from a “lack of redundancy” in the available computer data system which was proven last summer by the outage that impacted much of the Ohio Valley regardless of the system you were using.


Back in 1970, on the first day I worked in a public library, the biggest technical issue was how to fix the new coin-op copier after a piece of paper “caught fire” on the internal drum.


Putting a new ribbon in the new Selectric Typewriter was the second issue, and I am pleased to report that my technical abilities resolved both issues.


Ohio libraries in the 1970s had introduced telefaxsimilie machines to move information among libraries, despite the fact that it took 6 minutes per page to perform that task.


Computers existed back then, as Ohio had established the world’s largest library database in 1967 in Columbus, where it remains today.


Still, the computers of the day were housed in large buildings that quivered and shook during operation; and I couldn’t imagine how they would ever be applied to a local library operation.


Each advancement of computers made them seem like something that might be used in a library, but even the early systems used for checkout in the large libraries seemed beyond anything that might appear in Steubenville.


And here we are in 2016, almost 30 years from the day that computers first appeared in our library system; and it seems they have been here forever.


Each year, computers become more integrated into the library than the year before, and they will do something new that I never imagined would happen.


And the most common repair to a computer is to turn it off and turn it back on, and it is fixed.


Do you suppose that will ever change?