Public Libraries Technology Interest Group

Sunday: 8 – 10 a.m.
Our first event/meeting was a big success with almost 30 participants. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Paul Keith and Irmgarde Brown (co-chairs) welcomed everyone, gave a brief introduction to our new interest group and encouraged public librarians to join LITA.

Our Discussion Topic
Our guest speaker was Brian Auger from Howard County Public Library in Maryland. Brian shared a few facts about his system: 3rd wealthiest county in the country, second smallest population at 260,000 people, and yet they circulate over 2M items a year out of only 6 branches.

Howard County started re-thinking their commitment to “traditional” computer software as Web-based technologies began emerging. It appeared to them that such a basic system should be cheaper and easier to secure. With the support of only 2 I.T. staff back then, the library began a slow evolution into Linux (first by implementing the Linux Firewalls and then moving into replacing servers as they aged or failed). Once this transformation was complete, they began looking at the desktop and determined that an Open Source solution would be much cheaper to maintain. Ultimately, they purchased Groovix which is a very inexpensive software that supports the Linux environment and secures it. This solution also includes the complete Open Office Suite that works seamlessly with Microsoft products. In the end, Howard County is using Groovix with both public AND staff computers.

Key Benefits: HCL is able to extend the life of a PC up into the 5, 6 and even 7 year range. Since HCL doesn’t filter with software (only social pressure by having PCs in highly trafficked public areas), any type of website can be viewed including MySpace, music sites, and other interactive sites. (Bandwidth issues were handled by moving all public activity to cable access and an 8 MB drop for each branch. They have had no rebooting or freezing issues. All PCs can do all the same things.

HCL is now adding “pods” which are made up of 10 computers that actually use/share one larger “box.” This has been very successful.

HCL only has 5.5 FTE in the I.T. department and successfully maintain all the 350 PC’s.

One downside is staff acceptance of the Open Source software… but it keeps getting better. HCL has not experienced any complaints from the public.

During Question & Answer period…
How is the Service Contract with Groovix
Excellent… runs about $2000/year.
How would you evolve to Open Source if you were starting now?Maybe consider looking at a “turnkey” system like Userful.
Do you see Open Source and/or Linux becoming non-compatible?Don’t think so… recent involvement with the European Standards Agency that accepted Office Open Standard in Europe…that’s a good thing.

There was some side conversations that discussed other concerns or emerging technologies or assistance such as Wimax (wide area wifi), Tech Soup (offers low-cost software to 501c3 compliant organizations).

Business Meeting
During the “business” portion of our meeting, we discussed possible topics are areas of interest to the group that was there.

  • What are other people doing, how much do these technologies cost, and what is the real ROI?
  • What’s the “dirty underside” of some of the technologies or ILS migrations?

  • What expertise is really needed to implement some of the newer technologies?
  • What about specific training on how to implement some of the social technologies or customizations?

  • What about re-investigating security and wifi? How do the “bad guys” get access to that wireless data? What about getting a hacker to tell all?
  • Is it time to investigate again the disconnect between I.T. staff and frontline staff communications?
  • Technology planning comes in lots of shapes… what are some best practices? How do we include emerging technologies … but not just for their own sake, but because they meet an identified need. Consider partnering with LAMA.

General comments:

  • To Whom will you be marketing your programs? Tech staff or Librarians? Be sure to be clear about that when setting up a program. Know who you want your audience to be.
  • If using a listserv, please don’t over-use… really want updates only and program descriptions.
  • Follow-up Report
    Paul and Irmgarde attended the joint PLA Technology Committee and PLA Practical Applications of Technology Committee meetings. We were encouraged by these groups to continue to meet and we’ll continue to communicate, but our group is not quite ready to “co-sponsor” events with either of these committees.

    Paul and Irmgarde are focusing now on PLTIG (Pil-tig) to a forum/discussion group with key “speakers” at our discussion sessions at both Midwinter and Annual. If you have comments, please send an email to either Paul (pkeith@chipublib.org) or Irmgarde (brown@hcplonline.info).