A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step….

By John

I can’t remember where exactly I saw this quote but, it’s been popping in and out my head for the past couple of months. So, what have I been doing the last couple of months that would cause this? What haven’t I been doing for the last couple of months would be easier for me to answer. I have a good idea that it’s the huge project that the IT Staff have been working on non-stop for the past couple of months. Just today we were commenting about where the week went. Days, weeks, and precious minutes seem to be flying by at the speed of light and leaves us wondering, “What have we accomplished this week?” and “Are we back on schedule?”. Then there’s the ultimate slap in the face, “The server crashed!” and now all that work has to be redone.

For those of you who may be unaware, this huge project is a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Technology Grant awarded to Fontana Regional Library for $96,000 by the State Library of North Carolina. We were 1 of 198 applicants considered and 1 of 162 projects approved for funding. This grant supports technology-based projects with improving library services for users and/or enhances user access to electronic resources. It focuses on the library users and their needs rather than technology alone while supporting the library’s mission and goals and the goals of the State Library’s LSTA Plan.

Ok, ok, I know that sounds good but, what is it REALLY going to do? Actually it’s going to do several things that will improve service for our patrons. It’s going to:

  1. Allow us to add 30 wireless public Internet mobile laptops and netbooks throughout the library system (5 per library).
  2. Allow us to expand our public self-service PC reservation/time management and print management system to all our member libraries.
  3. Allow us to replace our ancient network printers with new ones.
  4. Allow us to make the library printers available to our public wireless patrons to print from their personal wireless mobile computers in any of our libraries.

Alright, so this means exactly what?

  1. It’ll mean that our patrons can use a library wireless laptop or netbook anywhere within the library. These wireless mobile computers are configured with the web user in mind, meaning they’ll have Internet access for electronic resources like NCLIVE with the ability to print. Our patrons will no longer be confined to using a desktop computer, unless they prefer to or if they need to have access to productivity software. Probably more important is that these wireless mobile computers will be an addition to the existing desktop computers, reducing patron wait time for an Internet computer.
  2. The PC reservation/time management and print management system we’ve been using at our Macon County Public Library has proven to be an efficient and effective solution managing computers, printers, and fees for our patrons. Now you’ll see it in all our libraries managing the new wireless mobile computers, new network printers, and the existing desktop computers. Self-Service stations with the new network printers will be set up so a patron can reserve a computer or pay for and release a print job using an attached Coin/Bill Acceptor. And in case our patrons need assistance there will be staff stations set up at our public service desks with the same functionality.
  3. Each of our libraries offers a Wi-Fi hotspot that our patrons use to connect their personal wireless mobile computers. They are a separate and unassociated network from the libraries’ internal network. As such, patrons are unable to print directly from their wireless mobile computers unless they save it to a USB flash drive then use a library desktop computer to print to the library’s printer. The PC reservation/time management and print management system will bridge that gap for our patrons. Our patrons will be able to download a temporary virtual printer driver for the library’s networked printer, submit their print job, then use a Self-Service station to pay for and release the print job.

And there you have it, that’s the plan man. In order to get there, lots of people were involved from our patrons to frontline staff, IT staff, and managers. They provided input with the assistance of a consultant in a previous planning grant the year before this one. The staff and managers have worked out the details on equipment. IT has ordered it and received it. They’ve planned the security, software, and network configurations and have installed the majority of it. Those front line staff, IT staff, and managers are now getting some hands on training on all of it. There’ll be more training and meetings on changes to policies and procedures. And because there’s so much involved with this project we won’t roll everything out to everyone at the same time.

First, we’ll roll out the PC reservation/time management and print management system, the Self-Service stations with new network printers, and add the same functionality to our existing staff stations at the public service desks in each of our libraries, one library at a time. We’ll start with:

  • Nantahala Community Library on March 14th,
  • Marianna Black Library on March 16th,
  • Hudson Library on March 21st,
  • AC-Cashiers Community Library on March 28th,
  • Jackson County Public Library April 4th.

As the dust settles and everyone becomes familiar with the new system we’ll roll out the final part.

We’ll rollout the new wireless laptops and notebooks and bridge the gap to enable patrons with their personal wireless mobile computers to print to our libraries’ networked printer, one library at a time. We’ll start with:

  • Nantahala Community Library on April 11th,
  • Marianna Black Library on April 13th,
  • Macon County Public Library on April 18th,
  • AC-Cashiers Community Library on April 25th,
  • Hudson Library on May 2nd,
  • Jackson County Public Library on May 9th.

We’re nearing the end of the journey, just a few more steps to go…..

5 thoughts on “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step….

  1. Well said!
    Never ending journey for tecnology and learning. I’m gonna get there even if I have to take notes and take more notes and try to remember where that darn note is. I’m on this journey for the long haul.
    You IT guys ROCK!


  2. John, I have seen you, Jim, and Charlie sequestered in the IT room for two months and wondered what impact all that work would have. A single step for IT, maybe, but one giant leap for FRL. 🙂


  3. Holy smoke, John — just thinking about all the steps involved in this process makes my brain hurt.

    If you’re reading this sitting down, stand up and take a bow!

    Go ahead and take another! You and Jim and Charlie deserve it!


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