NOBLE COUNTY — In today’s modern world, it’s easy to see how internet has gone from a luxury to a necessity.
As a result of this modernization, many Noble County libraries are seeing the need for increased internet and have answered the call. Kendallville Public Library recently took a large step in that direction by increasing their bandwidth from 50 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second, thus doubling their internet speed.
“The library is such a large part of life nowadays. But not everyone has access to it. At the library, we are always looking to see what we can do for the community and how we can help. With this upgrade, I think it will provide library visitors with a better experience,” said Kendallville Public Library Director Katie Mullins.
“These days, we all like faster access, so this increased annual cost is a small price to pay for an even better customer service experience. Thanks to an e-Rate discount available through the federal government, the cost of the increase was less than $1,000, allowing the library to keep Internet service costs low,” a library press release from June 7 said.
The increased bandwidth will not only benefit those using the library’s public computers, but those using self-checkouts, taking advantage of Wi-Fi and patrons working with staff members at the customer service desks to check out materials, place holds, renew items and more.
Noble County Public Library also took steps recently to upgrade its bandwidth — from 20 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
“There’s definitely been a jump in wireless usage,” Sandy Petrie, NCPL director, said. Since the state of Indiana started requiring its libraries to switch to the Evergreen system in late 2007, internet became a necessity in order for the library’s cataloguing system to work. NCPL was connected to internet by 2009.
“Internet was never really a choice. The library had to get it. There were lots of hiccups at the beginning, but the benefits to the patrons were incredible. It far outweighed the losses,” Petrie said. There were 47,000 wireless internet uses in 2017, while library computer uses increased by 2,000 to 15,500, according to an annual library report.
Mullins also said that the library has seen an increase in the amount of personal devices using the internet in the library.
“We used to have a lot more computers than we do now. But now, everyone has a computer in their pocket. The internet won’t only help the speed of our computers, but also individual devices,” she said.
Uses of the internet vary. It’s not uncommon for people to use the library internet to print academic documents and even coupons for school, work and home. With many programs online, it’s not unusual to see library patrons doing proctored exams online too.
“It’s truly a variety of use. Most legal stuff is online, so courts send people here over for government stuff, and social stuff such as Facebook and checking email. It’s all ages really, from kids that come to play games to the elderly checking their email,” Petrie said.
For many elderly citizens and those with limited computer knowledge, simple tasks such as finding and printing a form can take twice as long. NCPL staff find themselves sitting next to patrons at the public computers, helping them at least a few times a week, Petrie estimates. Staff have found themselves on more than one occasion helping patrons with basic tasks, such as setting up an email account.
“There are many people still not comfortable with computers. We have to help them navigate some of that,” Petrie said.
As for the future, Petrie isn’t sure where additional changes will need to be made when it comes to the Internet.
“I think it’s going to continue to get worse. I think the government will require things to be online only. The nature of the beast is causing bandwidth to have to increase more and more. One of the things we struggle with is a lot of people can’t afford internet at home, so they depend on the library. Libraries are critical to helping people connect with the world today. We’re doing the best we can with what we can,” she said.
Mullins is hopeful for the growth and expansion of the library’s technological abilities, but also recognizes the challenges that come along with it.
“We’re always trying to provide for our patrons and give them things before they even know they need it. Of course, with technology, things are constantly changing. And at the library, we want to be as up-to-date as possible, and that means we’ll constantly be teaching the library staff and employees. As technology continues to progress, it’ll be challenging to always stay updated,” she said.