PLTIG (Public Libraries Technology Interest Group)

We met Sunday morning, from 8-9:30 am at the Hyatt Capitol Hill in the Ticonderoga Room. Although we were a small group (which can probably be attributed to a combination of the hour of the day and the distance of the hotel from WCC)… but covered some good territory and shared our plan for MidWinter and Annual 2008.

We welcomed Scott Reinhart and Bob Kuntz (Carroll County (Maryland) Public Library to our meeting and they gave a brief history of the their library and how they have managed to do so much with technology in their community. Clearly, one of their greatest assets is a well-funded infrastructure since the county “capitalized” their hardware and software, they receive over $225,000 per year for refresh and upgrades alone. They are also “entrepreneurial” and receive a small income stream from operating as an ISP for dial-up residents, providing server access and support to the local hospital, and partnering with two local community colleges. As the county moves to a complete fiber network, the library will benefit as well which will solve most, if not all, of their bandwidth issues. They service over 300 PCs with IIS servers and their ILS is Horizon. They are also wireless enabled and currently moving their branches to Voice Over IP for telephone service.

They are always looking for ways to enhance their users’ experience with enhanced content from Syndetics, AquaBrowser and now they are planning a beta test with Syndetics Ice.

So, what’s the message that Scott & Bob have for smaller systems: Be willing to try something new… but always have a fall back. Neither Scott nor Bob were originally in I.T. but started out in more traditional librarian roles. In a smaller system, it’s essential that someone take that next step and be willing to learn the technology. Both Scott & Bob learned on the job … asked lots of questions… and looked to their contacts in other systems (and associations), and consultants for help.

We had some additional discussion on handling PAC use through SAM and some of the issues faced (down time, lack of flexibility, etc.). One participant shared that at any given time, they could have 100 people waiting for computer time! We discussed some issues surrounding in-house “check-out” of laptops and how systems handle this as well as training issues for front-line staff dealing with customers brining in laptops (what is our role? – we had diverse opinions.) One solution presented was to consider a company called EthoStream that has been servicing and managing wireless in hotels but may be finding a niche with libraries. One of the biggest advantages is their HELP desk which can be used by patrons directly, taking some of the pressure off the staff to solve wireless issues or answer overly technical questions. (Again, this was merely a suggestion.)

Other issues we discussed were the new wireless 802.11 n wirelss standard that is expected in September 2008 and how it might impact library bandwidth and gaming.

At the end of our discussion time, we had a brief business meeting, encouraging attendees to join LITA, attend the LITA forum, and to attend the program we co-sponsored on Drupal (right after our meeting). We are also looking for a LITA liaison for the ALA literacy committee. Please contact the LITA office if you’re interested. Lastly, we discussed our planned discussion for MidWinter and the proposal that we will be presenting to LITA’s PPC tomorrow for a full-fledged program at ALA 2008. Our focus will continue to be small to medium-sized libraries and how they are tackling technology challenges. If you have any suggestions for discussion topics or programming, leave a comment. Thanks.