In-Service Day at OCPL

img_19151
The beautiful children’s courtyard at Spartanburg County Public Library’s main library.  OCPL staff members visited this library in March for In-Service Day.

All branches of the Oconee County Public Library will be closed on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 for a staff training day. Book returns at the branches will be open, and the website, http://www.oconeelibrary.org, will also be available. All branches will reopen at normal times on Thursday,  October 6.

 

Several times a year, we close down our four branches and the bookmobile, and the staff gathers together for training.  Next Wednesday’s agenda has great variety:

We will hear from Joe Ryan speaking on the topic of “Child Safety on the Internet.”  Mr. Ryan is an education coordinator for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He visits schools across the state and teaches students about the dangers of social media.

We will have a group report from six OCPL staff members who recently attended a one-day workshop at a branch library in Richland County.

Our Technical Services Librarian, Robena Barton, will present the results of her work on the OCPL’s online catalog, which makes our digital resources visible via the catalog.

The library’s new assistive technology computer and software, acquired through a grant from the South Carolina State Library, will be demonstrated to the library staff.

Small group breakout sessions will feature teams of library staff demonstrating the use of OCPL’s digital products to other staff members.  All staff members are expected to be able to instruct the public in their use.

Representatives from the Friends of the Library will explain their bookstore operation, which is housed in the basement of the Walhalla Library.

Continuing education, in the form of In-Service Days, is instrumental in training our staff to serve the public because public libraries are constantly changing as we adapt to changes in technology.  We have added the following digital products in the past six years:  Overdrive, Mango Languages, Ancestry.com, Value Line (online edition), New York Times (online edition, available in both English and Spanish), Flipster(digital magazines).  Moreover, since we are heavily dependent on part-time staff, and these part-time positions turn over fairly often, we must constantly train new staff members.  In-Service Day also gives existing staff the opportunity to meet the new staff members.

For  our March In-Service Day, we travelled to Spartanburg County so that the staff could tour the Main Library in downtown Spartanburg and the Boiling Springs branch library.  Touring this much larger library educated our staff about newer technologies and library services, which we hope to implement in Oconee County some day.  All county libraries in South Carolina compete with each other to offer materials and services to our patrons, for we know that public libraries are part of the quality of life that both individuals and companies look at when deciding where to locate.*

 

* We noted from today’s WGOG news broadcast that Spartanburg County landed  Michelin’s  Distribution Facility. Oconee County had hoped the facility would be housed in Oconee County’s Industrial Park near Fair Play.

 

 

The digital divide, part 2

Another aspect of the digital divide I discussed with the two classes of Clemson students last Monday is access to information.  Even if an individual or group has a broadband Internet connection and the device needed to use the connection, the gatekeepers of literature, films, music and periodicals, especially scientific journals and specialized magazines, must be compensated before these items can be accessed.  I brought up Alexandra Elbakyan, who created Sci-Hub, a website that provided free access to journal articles, with the rationale that many students in third world countries cannot afford access to the latest research.  Here are links to two recent articles about Ms. Elbakyan:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/this-student-put-50-million-stolen-research-articles-online-and-theyre-free/2016/03/30/7714ffb4-eaf7-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/alexandra-elbakyan-founded-sci-hub-thwart-journal-paywalls

The issue of access is also a topic of concern at the public library level in South Carolina. Residents of wealthy South Carolina counties* have access, through their public libraries, to numerous online databases and digital content sites, over and above the resources provided to all South Carolinians by the South Carolina State Library(DISCUS), while residents of the poorer, rural counties do not.  It is a situation  comparable to the deplorable physical conditions of school buildings detailed in the independent film “Corridor of Shame,”** which conveyed the plight of students attending public school systems in the poor, rural counties of South Carolina. See article on what has happened in one of the counties, Dillon County, South Carolina, here:  http://hechingerreport.org/the-rural-school-district-obama-fought-to-save/

Access to the latest information, literature, films and other items of culture is important for all our citizens and determines how competitive our students and entrepreneurs are, not only with residents of other parts of the United States, but also with individuals all over the world.

* For three examples of digital resources provided by  well-supported public libraries in South Carolina, see the websites for the Charleston County Library: http://www.ccpl.org/content.asp?name=Site&catID=19957&parentID=5372 ,

the Greenville County Library: http://www.greenvillelibrary.org/index.php/downloads/

and the Richland Library:                                                                http://www.richlandlibrary.com/

**http://www.corridorofshame.com

The digital divide

For the past three years, I’ve been invited to speak on the topic of “the digital divide” to several Management Information Systems(MGT 3180) classes at Clemson University.

 

One definition of the digital divide, from an article in Wikipedia, reads as follows:

“A digital divide is an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies(ICT). The divide within countries (such as the digital divide in the United States) may refer to inequalities between individuals, households, businesses, or geographic areas, usually at different socioeconomic levels or other demographic categories. The divide between differing countries or regions of the world is referred to as the global digital divide examining this technological gap between developing and developed countries on an international scale.” Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide

In my talks to Clemson students, I have enhanced the definition by including other factors besides economic and social inequality that leave individuals and groups on the wrong side of the divide.  Based on my study of the reality of access to information and communication technologies in Oconee County and around the country, I have identified the following barriers:

(1) Lack of availability of high-speed Internet access in specific areas due to sparse population, which has made installation of fiber economically questionable for “for profit” providers.  There are upscale communities in Oconee County, South Carolina and other American counties where households must rely on satellite providers, such as Hughes Net, or cell tower Internet service from cell phone companies like Verizon, due to the absence of other options.  These households regularly exhaust their data plans each month and cannot make full use of the most up-to-date options.  See  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/08/technology/how-to-give-rural-america-broadband-look-to-the-early-1900s.html?emc=edit_th_20160808&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=55294413&_r=0

(2) Statutes in numerous American states that prevent the public sector, read municipal or county governments, from providing direct service to private customers.  The “for profit” companies in the market have successfully lobbied their state legislatures to keep governments out of the market.  If “for profit” providers do not choose to offer high-speed connections,* businesses and homeowners are handicapped in their ability to make full use of communication resources.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/technology/broadband-law-could-force-rural-residents-off-information-superhighway.html?hpw&rref=business&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

*minimum speed as defined by the Federal Communications Commission is now 25 megabits per second.  See http://www.cnet.com/news/sorry-your-broadband-internet-technically-isnt-broadband-anymore/

(3) Disabilities that prevent certain individuals and groups, irrespective of economics, from fully accessing the Internet.  Assistive technology is a growth industry as the American population ages, with failing eyesight, loss of hearing, impaired manual dexterity, et cetera.  Of special importance is technology that converts spoken word to text, which enables the physically disabled to interact with web sites.

(4)  Religious beliefs that prevent the use of modern technology.  Of special note are the Old Order Amish, the most conservative of the Amish groups.  Their homes are not even connected to the electrical grid, much less the Internet.

(5)  Lack of basic literacy, which prevents a sizeable group of Americans from using the Internet.  Inability to read and write and spell is definitely a handicap in the unforgiving online world.

(6)  Lack of basic computer skills, including the use of keyboards and mice.  In some cases this is a factor of socioeconomics, but in other cases, older members of society have failed to keep up with technological advances.

(7)  Obsolete technology, irrespective of socioeconomics.  Some individuals are reluctant to discard obsolete equipment and upgrade to more modern cellphones, personal computers and laptops.  Moreover, the refusal to upgrade from slower Internet connections, such as DSL, to faster connectivity handicaps some households in their attempts to fully access communication technologies.

I also mention the role of public libraries in providing access to the Internet, noting that Oconee County Public Library offers a total of 33 public Internet terminals at its four libraries, wifi access at each location 24 hours a day,  plus wifi access at three community centers:  Mountain Rest Community Club, Long Creek Community Center, and Fair Oaks Youth Association building in Fair Play.

Homework requirements at public schools in South Carolina and counties throughout the United States now require access to both devices and the Internet. The mifi “hotspot” with Chromebook (or similar device) option, checked out to students whose families cannot afford hardware or an Internet connection is another possibility.   I note that the Pickens County(SC) School System is offering this option to certain students this fall.   For more about the necessity for students to be able to access the Internet for homework assignments, see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html

The bottom line I leave with the Clemson students, who are aiming for business careers, whether as employees or entrepreneurs, is to make sure that the city or town that they choose as a place to live and work has adequate internet connectivity.  See articles on Chattanooga, Tennessee at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/17/realestate/commercial/chattanoogas-innovation-district-beckons-to-young-entrepreneurs.html?ref=technology  and http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/placemakers/2016/08/can_chattanooga_tennessee_bridge_its_digital_divide.html

See also the March 2016 Council of Economic Advisers’ document entitled “The Digital Divide and Economic Benefits of Broadband Access” at   http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo67605/20160308_broadband_cea_issue_brief.pdf

 

OCPL teams up with the Fair Oaks Youth Association to provide Wifi access to the Internet in Fair Play

Free Wifi is now available on the grounds of the old school  building in Fair Play.  The OCPL is partnering with the Fair Oaks Youth Association, which is housing the equipment in the cafeteria building on the campus.  Fair Play joins Mountain Rest and Long Creek as sites where OCPL wifi is available.  The parking lot of the Mountain Rest Community Club is the access point in Mountain Rest, and the Long Creek Community Center‘s parking lot is the access point in Long Creek.

Wifi access to the internet is also available around the clock in the parking lots at each of the OCPL libraries:

Walhalla Library (501 W. South Broad St., Walhalla, SC)

Seneca Library (300 E. South Second St., Seneca, SC)

Westminster Library (112 W. North Ave., Westminster, SC)

Salem Library (Salem Town Hall, 5 Park Ave., Salem, SC)

IMG_2548[1]
Fair Oaks Youth Association Building in Fair Play, SC

New energy-efficient lamps installed in Walhalla Library parking lot

Friday, August 5, 2016, the eight(8) lights that illuminate the parking lot at the Walhalla Library received replacement LED lamps.  The new lamps are much more energy-efficient than the GE R320 Pulse ArcMetal Halide Bulbs they replaced.  Below is a photograph of the box  that one of the new LED lamps came in.  It provides information about the lamp.

The purchase of the lamps was funded by the $150,000 allocation County Council made to the library system this year.

 

IMG_2528[1]
The Oconee County Facilities Maintenance department’s electrician installs a new energy-efficient lamp in one of 8 fixtures that illuminate the parking lot of the Walhalla Library.
IMG_2533[1]
This is the box that contained one of the new LED lamps that were installed Friday, August 5, 2016 at the Walhalla Library.

New ceiling tile installed at the Walhalla Library

The Walhalla Library was closed Wednesday, August 3 and Thursday, August 4, 2016 to allow the staff of the Facilities Maintenance Department of Oconee County to replace ceiling tiles in the dropped ceiling areas throughout the library.  The library reopened to the public at 9:00 a.m. this morning, Friday, August 5.  Below are photographs of the work that was going on while the library was closed.

The Westminster Library and the Seneca Library are also scheduled to receive new ceiling tiles soon.  The purchase of the ceiling tiles came from a $150,000 allocation County Council made to the library system this year.

 

IMG_2512[1]
It took two containers to accommodate the used ceiling tiles and other materials produced by the project.
IMG_2499[1]
The lobby area of the Walhalla Library with new ceiling tiles installed
IMG_2497[1]
The lobby was one of the staging areas for the project
IMG_2518[1]
Old tiles are leaning against the wall of this hallway off the main floor
IMG_2520[1]
The library’s work room was another staging area.  Note the old tile on the left and the new tile on the right
IMG_2521[1]
The area in the middle of the main floor was another staging area for the project.  Note stacks of ceiling tiles in the foreground
IMG_2522[1]
Two crews installing ceiling tiles in the staff work area around 4:30 Thursday afternoon

OCPL’s Summer Food Program results

For the first time this summer, the Oconee County Public Library joined forces with the School District of Oconee County’s Food Services department to feed kids for free.

Three county library branches served free meals to children during the summer.  The meals were provided by the School District of Oconee County’s food services department and were served on weekdays from June 7th – July 29th, except for July 4th.

Meals were served from 11:30 a.m.– 12:30 p.m. at the Seneca Library,  11:00 a.m.– 12:00 noon at the Walhalla Library, and from 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. at the Westminster Library.  Children  18 years and under received a free nutritious lunch.  There were no income requirements or registration.  The meals were provided in conjunction with the national Summer Food Service Program. More information about this program is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer .

Here are the final statistics from the School District of Oconee County on the meals served at our libraries this summer.  Note that bag lunches were provided at the Westminster Library and the Seneca Library while hot meals were provided at the Walhalla Library.  The Walhalla Library(22,500 square feet) had space in the lobby for serving hot meals; the Seneca Library(9,000 square feet) and the Westminster Library(5,000 square feet) did not have the space to accommodate the hot meal option.

June:   Walhalla – 221,   Seneca – 355,   Westminster – 295

July:  Walhalla – 148,  Seneca – 389,  Westminster – 467

 

IMG_2195[2]
Staff member from SDOC’s Food Service in the lobby of the Walhalla Library waiting to serve lunch to children.