Grants help Barry-Lawrence Library boost resources

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Internet access expanded, older computers due for retirement

Recent upgrades have expanded the technology capacity of branches within the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library system.

J.J. Goulbourne, information technology manager for the library system, said it received two grants from the Missouri State Library. Goulbourne has nearly completed placing 20 new computers, 20 new monitors and five printers for the public to use at five designated branches that had LaserJet printers at least eight years old.

"The lion's share of the new computers are for patron use," Goulbourne said. "We identified a total of 38 computers as needing replacement. We're applying for another grant to get the last 18 computers and monitors."

The library had a few extra computers to deploy as needed. The last went into the Cassville Branch recently, where the older computer developed network problems.

The $15,491 Technology Ladder Grant required a $5,658 (25 percent) local match. Purchase of the new equipment went out to bid, and MDC in Monett won the contract with a low bid of $21,149. Other bids ranged from $21,300 from PC Solutions and $22,182 from SHI.

To prepare for the upgrade, the library's internet broadband system needed upgrading branch by branch, including switches allowing access inside the buildings. The first grant started the bandwidth upgrade in the bigger branches.

"Both upgrades were specifically geared for improving our services we offer patrons," Goulbourne said. "With increased use, the broadband service we had was not adequate to support the load on our system. The circulation computers in all the branches are connected to the office in Monett, plus the internet computers. Folks would also come in with their our wireless devices. When they were all going, at certain times of the day, there would be a bottleneck that would slow down the entire infrastructure at those branches.

"The upgrade enabled us to better monitor usage for reporting purposes and to be able to manage rogue connections that may occur. For example, if a branch calls and says all of their internet connections are slow, we can see if a patron in streaming movies, or we could reduce their bandwidth to equalize it for others."

In the latest upgrade, the Miller Branch is moving up from the smallest potential at 1.5 megabytes to double that, and the Marionville Branch moved from 3 to 5. Eagle Rock and Shell Knob are still due for upgrades.

"We were running the central office at 10 megabytes," Goulbourne said. "At 1 p.m., it would slow down. I researched it and found we needed to upgrade. With the MOREnet, [Missouri Research and Education Network] partnership, they bid for more bandwidth. Instead of going to 20 megabytes, we went up to 50. That was probably one of the best decisions we ever made. We're getting a lot more usage now. Patrons realize which branch has the wider bandwidth. Sometimes we'll have 10 to 15 users at once in a branch, both wired and wireless, at any one time. That was our justification to upgrade."

In the process, Goulbourne also acquired another server in the central office, added to the other three already in use.

"If we get the next grant, phase two of our aging systems upgrade will take care of the ancient computers in the system," Goulbourne said. "With those, I think we'll be set for the next five years. After that, it will just be a matter of looking at future needs, based on patron requests and assessments, such as security and the overall library mission. That determines what we do next."

Gina Milburn, the library's director, said Goulbourne has proven to be a great asset for the system. In his first year, his efforts have enabled the library to quadruple its technology resources, thus keeping up with changing patron demands and expectations.

The library has also shared its technology with schools and the business community. Goulbourne conducted numerous classes this spring in public schools about cyber safety. Assistant Lee Ann Rosewicz offered six computer basics programs at several branches that 47 patrons attended. Twenty employees from Mid-American Dental and Hearing and in Mt. Vernon attended a presentation providing them with expanded knowledge in computer use.

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