For nearly 10 years, the slogan used by the Jacksonville Public Library has been, “Start here, Go Anywhere.”
Considering the growth of digital information technology, it would be fair to add, “And there’s more than one way to get there.”
Making sure those multiple paths are available to library customers requires an investment on the part of the city.
For the 2013-14 fiscal year, nearly $800,000 was budgeted for library technology upgrades.
When personal computers became part of the public library landscape, it began an evolution that progresses more rapidly each year.
Keeping up with how information technology can contribute to Jacksonville’s library experience has two facets.
For the staff at the public library, it involves keeping up with new formats for library materials and new services sought by customers.
For the city, it involves ensuring that Jacksonville’s public libraries have available the infrastructure, hardware and software to accommodate advances in technology.
With more than 1,100 units available for public use and 550 used by staff, the public library operates more computers than any other city department or agency. That makes it a major client of the city IT Department.
“We put it in proportion to the library system we have and the needs of the public,” said Paul Martinez, city director of intragovernmental services and the administration’s liaison to the library.
Projects completed this year include an upgrade to the Pharos system that manages access to the computers used by the public at the Main Library and 20 branch libraries and a full-system transition from Windows XP to Windows 7. More than 1,650 computers were upgraded and 343 were replaced.
Those two projects were budgeted at $405,028 for equipment and IT support.
Projects scheduled for completion by Sept. 30 include replacing copper wiring with optical fiber technology at four branch libraries and replacing servers and other network components to allow greater capacity in the system.
Under the usual procedure, IT and library staffs consult at least once each month on projects, said Gretchen Mitchell, assistant director for support services for the library.
Lately, that schedule has been increased to daily with the city in the process of expanding the library’s wireless technology bandwidth from 10 MB to 100 MB system-wide and to 1 GB at the Main Library.
It’s all part of keeping up with the technology customers need to access services that are available.
Mitchell said in addition to using the library’s personal computers, the trend is for customers to bring their own mobile devices to the library to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
People are taking college courses online, applying for jobs, taking part in webinars and even using Skype.
“The world has changed in the past 10 years. Information comes in all shapes and sizes now,” she said. “The city has to continue to invest in technology and infrastructure.”