February 23, 2010: @ the library
Use of the Radford Public Library went up an astonishing 19.8% in the first six months of this fiscal year (July 1, 2009-December 31, 2009), we discovered when we looked at statistics last month. Library staff could tell that things were busy, but it’s nice to have your sense of this validated by cold hard facts, in this case circulation count. Another area that has seen enormous growth in public use at the library has been the use of computers.
This library has had public computers for decades now, from a very early Apple IIe (are you old enough to remember?) when we were all just learning, from a very early encyclopedia on CD-ROM (live audio of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and maps of remote countries drawn before your eyes! We were amazed) up through all the rapid change in technology, when for a while last year’s computers wouldn’t run this year’s software. We learned, we budgeted, we tried to keep up with what people asked of public computing. The entire library building has provided wireless access for people bringing in their own laptops for several years now. This year’s newest computer addition has been a fleet of the newest tiny laptops that can be checked out for in-library use, if people prefer a laptop or if all the regular public computers are being used. More and more, this is a regular situation.
Arriving this week is a color copier/printer for public use. The public color laser printers we’ve used for the past four years have proven to be expensive beasts to run, and sometimes people print out many pages they don’t want and don’t care to pay for on the way out the door. There will be new print management systems in place now that should prevent unwanted (and expensive) printing. Library staff will have to release prints, once they’re paid for, or cancel them if they aren’t wanted. We hate waste, and with budgets tighter than ever, we can no longer afford print cartridges producing unwanted prints.
Like all change in technology, there will be a learning curve for the staff and for public computer users. We have found that many people come here particularly to print, when either they have no computer, no internet, or simply no good printer at home. More and more, we see use of public computers for serious educational and job hunting purposes, and the library will continue to support printing as part of public computer use.