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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 Internet & Libraries

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, November 18, 2018


If you are old enough to remember the TV series Star Trek, which originally appeared on television from 1966-69; you will likely remember that when the space travelers needed information someone would say “Library.”


Immediately a computer-sounding voice would respond to the question posed providing a full answer to the space traveler’s question.


For years, librarians across the nation discussed the library that was on Star Trek, and pondered if that voice-driven library full of every bit of information would ever become a reality.


Well it took about 40 years, but eventually voice-activated equipment appeared in the technical marketplace to answer people’s questions.


But prior to those developments, 1969 was the early beginning of something that would be called “The Internet.”


The Department of Defense established an electronic network that allowed researchers at various facilities around the country to share information quickly.


Since many of those facilities were actually colleges and universities, professors quickly saw the advantage of the ability to move data and information among researchers --- beyond Defense Dept. research, and soon it was moving information of all sorts.


Through the 1970s, the Intra-Net saw tremendous growth in usage, although on a restricted basis.


My first exposure was around 1981 when the State Library of Ohio demonstrated the “Internet” which they were allowed to use as a state research agency --- to send information through their “gophers” to local public libraries.


Tractor-fed printers cranked out pages and pages of information specific to certain topics.


My thought at the time was this was the early development of “something” that might become useful to the local public library, but it seemed “clunky” at best, although the public was thrilled by the quick response of information.


At the same time, we were all (public libraries) trying to automate access to our collections by digitizing all of those “union catalogs” dating back to 1938 that the State Library had been gathering.


After all, Ohio led the nation with the development of OCLC (Ohio College Library Center) in Columbus in 1967 to develop a union catalog so college library collections could be located all across the state.


Development seemed slow, but in 1988 our library system joined with Cadiz, St. Clairsville, Barnesville, and Woodsfield libraries to become the first five libraries to automate with the SEO system of the State Library of Ohio and begin checking out books online.


I figured this would be the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the biggest embarrassment of my library career which would end shortly after this experiment.


Well, I am still here in 2018, and our library system is still part of SEO 30 years after the fact, and the system just added the 93rd library in Ohio as part of the system, and I will be retiring in 4 months.


But, the SEO system is now the doorway to more than just paper books; it has DVDs and periodicals and eBooks, and downloads of all types and varieties.


The Internet is a dramatic tool of the library, and our web page is loaded with millions and millions of bytes of information and data that can be accessed with a library card and local school students can use the public library as a resource on their tablets, computers, cell phone and whatever gismo students use today.


The public library still checks out books, as well as all that other stuff ---- some million and a half things just in Jefferson County last year.


And it is time for me to pass the card catalog drawer on to the next generation of librarians who will move this library forward to all of the new developments that will allow the public library to continue to serve the public.