The library makes Internet resources, an online catalog, indexes to periodical resources (via CD-ROM on building-specific local area networks), and Charlotte’s Web (the community network) available in the main library and throughout each of the branches. Users outside the library may gain access to the library’s online catalog (a Dynix-based system) as well as Charlotte’s Web.
The Virtual Library, a technology laboratory opened in 1995 in the main library building, provides public access to the Internet and to the community network, Charlotte’s Web. Library staff and numerous community volunteers lead five to seven workshops and six introductory tours each month in the Virtual Library that are aimed at teaching Internet and computer fundamentals, and several other courses on specific software packages and computer applications. The Virtual Library houses 20 high-performance workstations and three local terminals. Half of the stations are Macintosh Power PCs and the other half are Gateway Pentiums. The inclusion of both platforms allows patrons to explore the different qualities of each. Most stations include 16M of RAM, double-speed CD-ROM drives, and full multimedia capability. Five new stations are used for imaging, multimedia, and Geographic Information and Analysis (the library is one of two public GIS sites in the state). These stations have 32M of RAM, 1 gigabyte hard drives, quad-speed CD-ROM drives, and 20- or 21-inch monitors. The Virtual Library LAN connects workstations to two file servers, 24 networked CD-ROM drives, the library’s T1 connection to the Internet, and both a black-and-white and a color printer. The PLCMC calls this the “world’s first all electronic public library.”
Charlotte’s Web, the community network providing free e-mail accounts and electronic computer access to educational services, resource materials, and public information, is a project of the PLCMC in partnership with other community organizations. The library provides the institutional foundation for Charlotte’s Web, whose five staff are library employees. Start-up and continuing funding have been provided by two Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce, along with matching local funds. Technical specifications for the network are described in several pages on the Web site, along with the following comment by the system administrator: “Most commercial information providers and computing centers refuse to share specific details of the inner workings of their systems. This is the only such system description publicly available that we know of.”