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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.

Library Circuits in 2017

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 27, 2017

 

Technology in the early days of my library career related to a better grade of ink to use in a stamp pad.

 

The typewriter with a memory appeared shortly thereafter, and allowed librarians to produce catalog cards without manually retyping each card for the file.

 

Early computers had a memory that was stored on a cassette tape, and you only hoped that the tape didn’t break so you would lose the 10,000 characters stored there.

 

One generation later we have moved to the point that libraries being link together to utilize the Internet and networks of computers is commonplace, and expected in any public library.

 

This is another one of those “they didn’t teach me this stuff in Library School in the 1970s.”

 

The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County began its journey into the world of technology and going outside the library in 1988 when we linked with a mainframe computer system located in Caldwell, Ohio.

 

It was simply a dedicated telephone landline that allowed 16 computer “terminals” to link to the mainframe computer and allowed data to move back and forth.

 

We checked items in & out of the library this way, and we could see the collections of 4 other libraries in Cadiz, Woodsfield, St. Clairsville, and Barnesville.

 

1993 brought the end of the card catalog, that piece of furniture with drawers full of 3 x 5 cards that accessed the book collection of a library.  It was replaced by an extension of the online system.

 

If you look at the online database today, the format remains unchanged and if you “typed” the information from the computer, it would fit on one of those cards!

 

The Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) was established in 1995 to provide a linkage to every county in Ohio to automate public libraries.

 

The dreary monochrome text-based terminals were replaced with desktop computers with color monitors and new connections called 56-K lines, meaning 56,000 Kilobits of data moving over a data circuit.

 

The more graphics that were added to computer data, the faster speed was needed for operations so we moved to T-1 connections which provided 1.5 Megabits per second.

 

In addition to the computers in the library, the era of WiFi had begun so we had to provide capacity for internal computer use.

 

OPLIN increased the trunk line to Jefferson County, and today we have a 100 Mbps line moving data from all of our libraries into the State Communications system.

 

Our local libraries are operating on fiber optic 5-10 Mbps circuits now to handle our computers and the number of people who come to the library with their own devices.

 

Our Adena Branch Library is actually operating on the fastest circuit at this time, as they were just upgraded.

 

Our other library locations will be increasing to 20-50 Megabits per second in 2018 as new equipment is acquired.

 

The Library System expends over $ 80,000 annually for our communications lines and equipment, as a public library today must have full access to the Internet and the networks that operate over links.

 

OPLIN supplements our system by providing the trunk line, and e-Rate funding assists with the communications network.

 

Earlier I described the 1988 network of 5 public libraries.

 

Today that same system, operating on its 5th system and never ending upgrades serves 93 library systems in Ohio with 280 library locations.