How did we get going with I.T.?
Well, we started working towards the super highway in 1994, when we formulated an information technology plan, and presented it to the former councils and regional library committee where it was enthusiastically endorsed.
We received funding from the Southern Grampians and Glenelg Councils, and through a L.I.C.A.D. Grant from Arts Victoria in 1995.
Since then, we¹ve slowly inched our way forward, and at this particular moment in time, we have:
Access One Points of Presence in Headquarters (Hamilton) and in the Portland branch. (4 free dial up accounts)
2 public access Internet work stations at both the Portland and Hamilton branches
1 public access workstation for the Email Pilot Project in Hamilton
1 staff Internet workstation in Headquarters
Joined I.T.I and are providing Internet training sessions at Hamilton (3 staff members are accredited I.T.I. Trainers)
Purchased a server computer, located at Headquarters.
Created a specialist position for an Information Systems Coordinator (Wendy Heale), and in doing so, have completed a major staff restructure.
Have a partially constructed Home Page on the Web.
LANIS equipment at both Hamilton and Portland to enable networking of IP accounts
A public access Internet work station at Casterton, with dial up access to the Portland P.O.P. for 2 hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings.
At least 1 staff member in each branch trained as Internet trainers through I.T.I.
Our Community Information Database mounted on the server and searchable via the Internet
Have onsold space on the server to local businesses and institutions
Additional training courses available to the public in Advanced Internet Searching, Email, and some subject specific courses e.g. genealogy.
A home page with links to several useful sites
Network the following branches with ISDN lines:
Hamilton - Portland
Casterton - Hamilton
Heywood - Portland
Provide Internet access to 4 major mobile library sites
Provide Internet training and related courses at all branches
Have the library catalogue and a bulletin board accessible via the Internet
Provide public email accounts (as a value added service) at all branch libraries
Have all branch library staff accredited as Internet trainers
Have local tourist and council information installed on the server for access by the Internet.
And probably several other services that we haven¹t even thought of yet!
Of course, we have yet to receive any funding for all of this. However, we will be aggressively pursuing every avenue for funding that we can possibly think of. Some the strategies in mind include:
Fund raising by ³Friends² groups
Donations from Service clubs
Submissions to various State and Federal government departments
Further funding by Councils
In retrospect, there are a number of things that we would have probably approached differently, and a number of things that we can heartily recommend. From a management point of view, there are a number of things that we can advise:
Some of the ways that this can be helped along are:
Staff training, of course. But sometimes you can lead a horse to water, but you can¹t make it drink.
Send your staff out to visit other libraries, and invite speakers in to talk and demonstrate at your locations. There are plenty of people out there who would be willing to assist. Make sure they are enthusiastic, and know what they are talking about.
Adopt an enthusiastic and positive attitude yourself. It¹s difficult to get your staff interested when you are only half hearted.
Of course, in country Victoria, it is extremely difficult to find the right person for such a position. (Even if you can afford it!) Encouraging some of your staff with an aptitude for this type of work to do computing courses rather than library studies is a good starting point.
For country public libraries, we would advise including an item in your submission for CSF Funding for technical support, e.g. the cost of having a person come on site and set up your workstations and connections.
Political reasons. You will find that the local computer distributor will support and promote your plans, and will direct other clients to the library. This is also a good policy for keeping your council and library board on side.
Support when things go wrong, and they invariably will, no matter how good the equipment. Locals can be there on site in minutes. You do not have to pack it up (usually) and send it to Melbourne for three weeks.
Assistance and ideas. By building a good rapport with a local dealer, we have found that they do not hesitate to provide technical assistance and advice on other matters e.g. installing sound cards, and software which you may have purchased elsewhere.
It is also a good idea not to purchase the most basic and cheapest model. You pay for it later on in terms of speed and downtime. We would recommend purchasing a Pentium 120 as a minimum.
This is a real problem in country Victoria, and I¹m afraid I don¹t have the answer. In 1995, an estimate cost for networking our branches was: $31284 rental per annum, and installation cost of: $1188. This does not include the cost of terminal adapters, routers, racks, etc. This was to provide a total of 216 km of ISDN 64k lines. We are still waiting for Telstra to provide an up to date quotation. (We have been chasing them for over three months now.) We have been told that it has been referred to one of their consultants in Geelong, and we are waiting to meet with them.
The availability of ISDN and the cost are the obvious issues. How does a library service already running on a shoestring budget afford these kinds of costs? Serious consideration of these issues should be given in the allocation of the CSF funding.
We reorganised priorities in order to get staff using and practicing on the Net. For example, staff were encouraged to spend 30 mins each morning on it in lieu of reshelving and shelf reading. We rostered staff for usage, and we also encouraged them to come in during their own time to use it. In fact after this we had to put the brakes on a couple of staff who were coming in at 5am to use it.
Free usage of the Internet by bookings, limited to one hour per booking as a maximum. Two bookings per week are allowed, but more may be negotiated with the library desk staff.
Downloading to the hard disk is not permitted. Users must purchase a disk ($2.00 each) from the circulation desk. Printouts also attract a charge.
Users under the age of 18 must have a disclaimer form signed by a parent or guardian.
We have banned Internet Relay Chat Line access. Some users have been offended by some of the messages and the graphics.
Obscene material is also not permitted, nor is crashing of programs or accessing unauthorised information or services.
These are just a few of the things that can be included. There are many policies available for viewing on the Net, although they are usually American in origin.
As in our branches, we only have a maximum of two people rostered on to work in a branch at one time, (sometimes only one). We have therefore implemented a policy whereby staff are available to assist first time users for the first ten minutes of their time. Thereafter, they are on their own, or it is at a cost.
Invitations to demonstrations, and a constant barrage of positive reports to the local media will help. Taking it to Council and Board Meetings for demonstration is also a good idea.
Ideally, I think you need both.
We have a small area away from the desk with room for several workstations in Hamilton. It is difficult to supervise and takes staff well out of public view in the library when they are assisting users. But it does lend itself to privacy for users and is ideal for training purposes.
We would like to place a workstation near the Circulation Desk for reference work and for beginner users who may need help.
Another thing to consider is the setup. Do you want to have one dedicated phone line per branch plus a LANIS network, or several dedicated phone lines? A LANIS (Local Area Network Internet Server) costs about $3000, but can provide up to eight workstations.
In conclusion, I would like to offer the following comments:
We have found that the Internet has extended our reference collection, and will be considered in formulating collection development policies.
We now have a different clientele using the library, including business people, particularly those involved in tourism, and teenagers.
A last piece of advice;
Prepare to take risks and make mistakes. We are exploring new territory, and working through new issues in ensuring that we provide the best services for our communities.
Chief Executive Officer