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, January 18, 1995

January 18, 1995 - Internet Access, part one

(This is the first of a two-part article on public Internet access at the library. The next will appear on January 25.)

I've been running some focus groups lately, and a surprising fact has emerged about Douglas County's residents expectations about libraries. People EXPECT us to be leaders in the field of information technology.

In other words, the old stereotype of the librarian as the steely- eyed matron who will brook no noise has begun to give way to a sort of cleaned-up hacker image, an "information professional." On the whole, that's progress.

Some of the focus group comments have been very specific: when, people wonder, will the Douglas Public Library District be connected to the Internet?

Why do people want Internet access? There are several reasons: in the past year, there has been a veritable explosion of information, as documents that were once available only in print are now instantly available online. This includes everything from the transcripts of last night's Public Broadcasting System interview to reams of government documents, to technical information on such topics as Artificial Intelligence or computer products, to online weather maps, updated hourly.

Beyond that, there's a lot of media hype about the "information superhighway."

Well, the Douglas Public Library District been connected since August of 1994. Every time you use our "Gateway" menu to connect to the Access Colorado Library and Information Network (ACLIN), or the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL), or the Pikes Peak Library District, you're using a "telnet" Internet connection.

As it happens, libraries jumped on the Internet bandwagon fairly soon. As of June of last year, 20.9% of U.S. public libraries were already online. The number is much higher now.

However, based on that same June, 1994 study:

* public library access to the Internet is not equitable. Public libraries serving larger communities are more likely to have access to Internet than public libraries serving smaller communities.

* there are regional variations in public library Internet connectivity.

* few public libraries offer direct public access to the Internet.

* there are wide variations in public library Internet costs: libraries for smaller populations report annual costs of $412. Libraries for larger populations report annual costs of $14,697.

At the Douglas Public Library District, our costs look like this: as of this year, Colorado SuperNet, Inc., our Internet provider, has assessed an annual $4,000 "subscription" charge. U.S. West charges us $150 monthly for our high speed dedicated phone line connection -- that's $1,800 annually. Beyond that, the library also pays SuperNet for several staff Internet accounts, enabling us to participate in electronic mail and library discussion groups around the world.

These connections have often proved useful both for professional development, and to answer reference questions. Each staff account costs us about $15 a month, and we have five accounts, for a total of $900 annually.

Add them all up, and the Douglas Public Library District is spending $6,700 a year for the Internet connection. I find this steep, given that until recently, all we were able to offer was a "telnet" connection to other library catalogs.

So in the past couple of weeks, we've been trying to explore some ways to deliver more Internet bang for the buck. In fact, we think we've got a couple of plausible strategies that we can offer the public as early as the next couple of months.

Next week, I'll describe these strategies, and probe some of the key issues regarding public access to the Internet.

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