Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The Implementation and Outcomes of the North Coast Internet Pilot Project

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The Implementation and Outcomes of the North Coast Internet Pilot Project

Article excerpt

Abstract: A description of a 1996 pilot project in Queensland to enable libraries involved to gain experience in using and providing a public internet service. The project also aimed to provide information for the State Library of Queensland about the issues associated with establishing, delivering and supporting internet services in Queensland public libraries. Edited version of the project report

The provision of information, whether for business, study, research or recreational purposes is a key role of public libraries. The internet is arguably the most important information tool of this century. Use of the internet can help public libraries enhance and complement their information services. It can rapidly provide information which is often more up to date and comprehensive than from other sources.

The State Library of Queensland plays a key role in supporting public library services in Queensland. It is crucial that this role extends to fostering and coordinating the provision of internet services to public libraries. For these reasons, the State Library Board approved the implementation of the North Coast Internet Pilot Project.

The purpose of the project was for the libraries involved to gain experience in interrogating and using the internet and to identify the management issues and service and resource implications for public libraries offering internet access to their clients. Another key objective was to provide information for the State Library about the issues associated with establishing, delivering and supporting internet services in Queensland public libraries.

The project achieved its first objective and the wealth of information gained regarding the practicalities of introducing internet access to the public is detailed later. Public library staff were enthusiastic in their support of the project, reporting that they had developed skills and confidence in providing internet services. All participating libraries have continued to provide public access internet.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the project was the creation of the InterLINQ network -- a partnership between State Library and the internet service provider (ISP) Access One, delivering free internet access to over twenty public libraries in regional Queensland.

Background

In April 1995, the Library Board accepted a proposal for a pilot project on public library access to the internet. Initially it was proposed to conduct the project between November 1995 and May 1996.

The project was to involve one regional node public library and a maximum of three dial in public libraries. The cost was estimated to be $42,000.

In recognition that cost is a major barrier to public libraries accessing the internet, it was proposed that establishment and maintenance costs for internet access would be funded by the State Library for the period of the project. The participating libraries were to finance dial in telephone costs and provide space, electricity and staff resources. For those libraries without appropriate hardware it was to be supplied by the State Library.

In June 1995 a letter was sent to the CEOs of four local government authorities, Cooloola, Caloundra, Maroochy and Noosa outlining the pilot project and inviting their participation. They were selected because the libraries serve a sizeable population base, but were outside local call access to Brisbane yet within easy travelling distance.

As planning for the project progressed a major change occurred to the way the internet service would be provided. Instead of the State Library developing the communication network it was decided to acquire internet services from Access One, a commercial internet service provider.

The State Library purchased three 28.8 Kps dialup connections to Access One's Maroochydore internet point of presence (Pop) for the duration of the trial. A fourth dial up service was supplied free of charge by Access One. …

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