Digital resources for students

Yesterday afternoon I visited with a teacher at a local high school and when I returned to the library I typed up this list of digital resources that I though would be useful for her students.  She was already aware of the DISCUS resources available from the South Carolina State Library, which have a link on our website.

The library’s online catalog:  Note that links to Project Gutenberg* titles are now included in the catalog plus access to pertinent DISCUS resources, for example, the digital entry on the author Neil Gaiman, which takes you to Galegroup digital resources on Mr. Gaiman.  You will need the DISCUS username and password to access EBSCO resources you bring up using the catalog.

The Keowee Courier, a newspaper published in Oconee County since 1849, and other historic newspapers(holdings end with 1922 issues due to copyright law), can be accessed at, which is a Library of Congress site.

The Library of Congress has other digital collections.  I like the American Memory collection:

Mango Languages will teach your students foreign languages. The link is on our website.

You can read the current issue of the New York Times in both English and Spanish as well as search its back files for several decades if you are researching recent historical events. See link on our website.

Flipster provides full content for selected current magazines.  See the link on our website.

The genealogy resource access is available for use at all our libraries.  See the link on our website.

Value Line, an online investment service to which the library subscribes, has a link on our website.  This resource provides information on publicly-traded companies.

OCPL also has an  Overdrive collection of e-books and e-audiobooks.  Downloading these digital items requires that you have a library card and be in good standing.

Here is the link to the SC digital collection:  There are numerous entries for Oconee County, which are useful for individuals interested in the history of Oconee County.

*Project Gutenberg titles are in the public domain, that is, they are out of copyright.  Many well-known classic works of fiction are available from this site if you need to locate a title to read for an assignment.




Oconee County’s upcoming sesquicentennial(150th anniversary) in 2018


First page of the Calendar of Events in 1968

Last night the Oconee County Arts and Historical Commission invited representatives of Oconee County organizations to a meeting at the new building at South Cove Park just outside Seneca.  Representatives from the Oconee Heritage Center, the Historic Ballenger House/Seneca Woman’s Club, the Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum, the Lunney House Museum, the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina, the Walhalla Civic Auditorium, the Retreat Rosenwald School, the Blue Ridge Arts Center, and the Oconee County Public Library, joined the members of the Commission for an evening of networking.


One of the issues brought up at the meeting was the necessity for planning the County’s sesquicentennial celebration.  150 years ago, on January 29, 1868, Oconee County was created from the western half of Pickens County.  The Centennial of the County was observed May 2-7, 1968, according to OCPL‘s bound copy of the Oconee Centennial booklet and its two-page Calendar of Events(pictured on this page)gives us ideas for possible events in 2018 in a countywide celebration of our history.

Second(final) page of the Calendar of Events in 1968


All those present expressed interest in being a part of this upcoming event!

Interior of the new building at South Cove Park.  Tables and chairs were set up in this space for last night’s meeting.
Exterior of the new building at South Cove Park.  The building functions as a store and as headquarters for Oconee County’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department headed by Phil Shirley.

What’s all the hoopla about?

“In the early 20th century, the word, playing on the syllable hoop, gave its name to a ring-toss game played at carnivals. But before that, hoopla was used in American English to refer to a kind of bustling commotion, and later, as a term for sensationalist hype.”
   OCPL staff members have been considering subscribing to Hoopla,* a service that provides access to e-books, e-audio books, films, music and graphic novels.  This has been prompted by its adoption by other public library systems in South Carolina, including our neighbor, the Anderson County Library(See ).
   OCPL tries to use its budget for library materials to provide access to a wide variety of materials to our county residents.  The problem that other public libraries have encountered with Hoopla is that the library’s Hoopla account is charged a certain amount, which varies from item to item, each time some0ne downloads an item.  This means that it is possible, and likely, that a library’s Hoopla account will run out of money before the end of the fiscal year.  We have heard reports that this has happened with several South Carolina libraries.  This means that access to all the available materials ends unless the library adds additional funds to its account with Hoopla.
    The other issue with Hoopla is that only library patrons with both Internet access and devices can make use of the service, since all the items are digital rather than tangible.  In a county like Oconee, where the digital divide (see my earlier posts on the digital divide) is readily apparent, we are reluctant to allocate such a large proportion of our materials’ budget to a service that only part of our county residents can use.
     Public libraries all over the country are grappling with the proliferation of formats that are demanded by library patrons.  The old days when libraries only purchased  materials in print form are long gone.  We still have patrons who prefer traditional print materials, so we purchase them, but we also purchase e-books and e-audio books through Overdrive, and these formats are very expensive.
     The bottom line is that OCPL needs more funds for library materials if we are to provide the resources our residents and taxpayers need to be well-educated, well-informed, and competitive with the residents of counties in our three-state area of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Publicly-supported institutions and services as the American answer to inequality.

public   (adjective)   pub·lic \ˈpə-blik\ of, relating to, or affecting all or most of the people of a country, state, etc. : of, relating to, paid for by, or working for a government : supported by money from the government and from private contributors rather than by commercials

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

I was thinking about all the publicly-supported institutions, including public libraries, in the United States that allow children from poor families to have some chance of success despite the lack of resources available to them from their families.  I came up with the following list. 

Public Colleges and Universities  See also this article on land grant colleges:   Clemson University got its start as a land grant college.

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Tillman Hall at Clemson University



Public Domain:  See Project Gutenberg’s site for works in the public domain:

Public Education and Horace Mann

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Horace Mann


Public Health

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Lillian Wald

Wald advocated for nursing in public schools, and her ideas led the New York Board of Health to organize the first public nursing system in the world. She was the first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing.


Public Housing:

Greenfield apartments in Seneca, SC is a family low income housing apartment subsidized by the federal governments hud (housing and urban development division).

Greenfield Apartments


Public Land:

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“Old Faithful” in Yellowstone National Park


Public Libraries and Andrew Carnegie:

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

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Public Radio and Public Television: and

Public Roads and Turnpikes:   and

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Public Works:

Water Plant over looking Lake KeoweeSeneca Light & Water derives its raw water from Lake Keowee


U. S. Postal Service:  The First U.S. Postage Stamps Issued 1847 The first stamp issues were authorized by an act of Congress and approved on March 3, 1847

Public Transportation:

Seneca, SC  electric public transit bus


In-Service Day at OCPL

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,, 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,, 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:

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:

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: ,

the Greenville County Library:

and the Richland Library:                                                      


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:

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

(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

*minimum speed as defined by the Federal Communications Commission is now 25 megabits per second.  See

(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

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  and

See also the March 2016 Council of Economic Advisers’ document entitled “The Digital Divide and Economic Benefits of Broadband Access” at