Nilles, who set these technology projects in motion, reported that she worked hard to foster a sense of adventure and an improvisational approach to technology to get the staff excited and knowledgeable. From the enthusiasm for technology expressed by staff at all levels, her approach seems to have worked. Both Nilles and McInvaill have followed a strategy of funding the purchase of hardware, software, and some electronic publications through outside funding sources, as McInvaill puts it, “so funds for books are not diminished.”
The library’s Gaylord Galaxy online catalog system is available via wide area network in all three library facilities and to patrons outside by dial-in. Since July 1995, the library has also made journal articles on CD-ROM available through the Supersearch capability of the online catalog and the wide area network to the main library and two branches. An LSCA grant of $4,630 from the state library funded the purchase of two network CD-ROM subscriptions: general interest journals and the Health Source on the Infotrac Mini Magazine service. The latter provides articles on more specialized health topics than the library could afford previously in printed form, and supports postsecondary programs in medical technology in the region. The Pro-Quest magazine database (1988- ) on CD-ROM is available in the main library to supplement subscriptions to individual journals. As a pilot project, the library experimented with supplying newspaper texts online from a commercial vendor. However, it later decided to stop the service because of infrequent use.
In April 1995, a $15,000 grant from South Carolina State Library LSCA funds enabled the library to open three Starburst Centers, equipped with multimedia electronic workstations and educational software for children and parents. Two stand-alone workstations were installed in the children’s department of the main library and one was put in each branch. Children of ages three to twelve are the target audience, and the focus is on reading incentive and reading readiness. The library has spent approximately $2,500 to date on CD-ROMs and software for children (in the main building), and will spend $1,000-1,500 in the coming year. Children’s librarian Shelia Sullivan reports that ongoing selection of CD-ROM or software titles for children is guided by the appropriateness of the topic and quality of content, and not by the fact that it is electronic.
Since July 1995, the library has offered a teaching center for adults in the main library and a computer workstation loaded with word processing, graphics, and other software to encourage creativity. Reference staff members have learned, through experience with public use of the computer, to reduce their verbal instructions (better than written instructions, they find) to three key steps taking no more than five minutes. A workstation for the blind and physically challenged is also available.
In March 1994 the library became the first–and remains the only–public agency in the county with access to the Internet, including the schools. One computer terminal near the reference desk in Georgetown is available for patrons to search the Internet with staff assistance. Patrons may sign up for time in blocks of an hour and buy diskettes for downloading. Until recently, the library used CompuServe and America Online for Internet access, each of which required long distance phone charges. Since May 1, 1996, a local provider has offered unlimited Internet access for a flat rate for each library facility. The library can now establish public access, Internet-connected workstations for its patrons, and local citizens can get their own e-mail accounts through the local provider. Workstations for public Internet access will be made available (one in each branch and two in Georgetown) in fall 1996 through funding from an LSCA grant and from local Rotary Clubs. The funds also will pay for a dedicated phone line for Internet access for one year for each of the three library buildings.
Since the departure of Virginia Nilles in 1995, the direction of automation has shifted somewhat. Nilles had initiated a project to place workstations networked to the library in fire stations to serve rural isolated areas of the county. However, the state library withdrew LSCA funding when a change in library directors occurred. A project to convert the information in a printed directory of community service organizations to a file on the library’s online catalog did not live to fruition because of delays in federal funding and increased software costs. Assistant director Peggy Loyd reflects that, in the end, the latter project might have been outdated by now, and that it might be better to create a library homepage on the World Wide Web and then put community information on it. McInvaill muses, “technology moves so quickly that we are already outdated.”
The following technical infrastructure makes all of these services possible. A central Digital Alpha 200 computer serves as hub for a network of 19 workstations and terminals. The library maintains an Ethernet wide area network over leased 56KB telephone lines to connect the main library and two branches. Throughout the three library facilities, eight PC workstations and ten terminals are available for use by the public in public service areas. The high-end workstations are Intel Pentium 486/586, of which the library has eight. Two of these library workstations offer Internet access to the public with text only and two offer Internet access with full graphical capabilities. The library’s catalog is maintained locally on an online Gaylord system. The online catalog may be viewed at six workstations and fifteen terminals within the library system, both in the main library and in the branches. Modems enable four users at a time to dial in to the online catalog. Electronic journals are acquired on CD-ROM from Infotrac and ProQuest and made available at eight workstations and three terminals in the main library, in the branches, and by dial-in. Of the totals above, four public access workstations and four terminals are available in children’s service areas. In 1995, the library used 14 percent of its collection development budget for electronic resources (leased, licensed, or purchased) and 86 percent for traditional format library materials.