This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, September 16, 1992

September 16, 1992 - Metro libraries online

In 1984, I decided to try what was then a very unusual idea: provide a public telephone line to the local library's computer catalog. If you had your own computer and a modem - a device that lets computers talk through phone lines - you could, effectively, put the library catalog on your desk.

I believe my library (Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois) was the first public library in the country to do this.

To promote the new service, I spent a lot of time talking to various computer users groups, most of whom didn't have modems. The ones that did, used modems that crawled along at 300 characters per second, just one-eighth the speed of today's most common modems.

In 1984, a library providing computerized access to "bibliographic data" was way ahead of the curve. But as a friend of mine and I maintained in an article we published back in 1983, that was still a long way short of the computerized library's potential.

We thought that library catalogs needed to tap into the real wealth of libraries. We needed to provide not just access to the indexes to information; we needed to provide the information itself.

Nobody responded to our article at the time, but it seems to me that Jim and I had predicted precisely the direction public libraries are headed these days, just ten years later.

In Colorado, Denver Public's CARL system, followed by the Pikes Peak Library District (also running on CARL software) has pioneered this trend. Connecting (or "dialing in") to CARL not only puts a card catalog of some five millions titles at your fingertips, it also offers an online encyclopedia, a sprinkling of magazine abstracts, and even an index to book reviews, which also includes some abstracts.

At present, the Douglas Public Library District's central computer houses Community Information Resource information, containing information about social service, civic, and not-for-profit agencies serving Douglas County residents. By the end of this year, thanks to the negotiating wizardry of Oakes Mill Branch Manager Gina Woods, we will provide computerized indexing to four years of almost 400 popular periodicals. This product is called MAS, Magazine Article Summaries, because each and every article will have a concise but comprehensive abstract, right there on the screen of every terminal in the system.

With access to this kind of current magazine data, I truly believe more and more people will choose to do their research from home, browsing through ever-larger universes of data without ever getting out of their pajamas.

Meanwhile, I thought that those of you with the necessary equipment and software (modems cost as little as $49 these days, and there are many public domain and "shareware" programs to be had for nothing) might appreciate having a directory to the public library databases available in the metropolitan Denver area.

All of the numbers below are local calls, so are absolutely free. Be aware, however, that in the CARL system, you really have to have a Denver Public or Pikes Peak Library Card to gain access to some of the most interesting data. But with the Colorado Library Card, all you have to do is take your Douglas Public Library District card with you to either of the libraries, and they'll give you the number you need.

The Douglas Public Library District phone number is: 688-1428. Modem speeds: 2400, 1200, or 300. Settings: No parity, 8 bit words, 1 stop bit. Terminal emulation: VT100. After connection: press Enter a few times to synchronize your modem with ours. Trouble: if nothing appears on the screen, try holding down your control key and pressing the letter Q. If you get a "login" prompt, type the word "library" (without quotes), being very careful to use lower case letters, then press Enter. To quit: just hang up. Note: the DPLD database also allows you to reserve titles, but have your library card handy.

The CARL phone number is 758-1551. Modem speed: 2400, 1200, 300. Settings: No parity, 8 bit words, 1 stop bit. Terminal emulation: several options available. After connection: press Enter, then just follow instructions. Trouble: hang up and start over. To quit: hang up. Note: you can connect through CARL to the Bemis Public Library, Denver Public, Boulder Public, Pikes Peak Library District, many other Colorado libraries, including both the metro area and the western slope, and beyond that, from Maryland to Hawaii. Even if you get connected to one of those libraries, it's STILL a local phone call.

The ARAPAHOE LIBRARY DISTRICT, and the AURORA PUBLIC LIBRARY phone numbers (there are two) are: 343-8635 OR 364-6355. Modem speed: 2400, 1200. Settings: No parity, 8 bit words, 1 stop bit. Terminal emulation: VT100. After connection: hold down Ctrl key and hit the letter "O". Then follow instructions. Trouble: hang up and start over. To quit: hang up. Note: at present, this system doesn't have any non-bibliographic data.

The Englewood Public Library's phone number is: 783-0038. Modem speeds: 2400, 1200, 300. Settings: Even parity, 7 bit word, 1 stop bit. Terminal emulation: VT100. After connection: at Login prompt, type #LOGIN PAC# (in caps). Then follow instructions. Terminal emulation: several available. Trouble: hang up and start over. To quit: hang up. Note: at this writing, Englewood doesn't have any non-bibliographic data either.

I hope this proves useful. Happy hunting!

No comments:

Post a Comment