Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Addressing Rural Library Technology Budgets with Single Board Computers: Testing the APC 8950 Rock Circuit Board Computer for Patron Access

Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Addressing Rural Library Technology Budgets with Single Board Computers: Testing the APC 8950 Rock Circuit Board Computer for Patron Access

Article excerpt


Over the last decade, libraries have faced enormous budgetary challenges when it comes to implementing new technologies. These challenges are very pronounced in rural areas where libraries struggle to develop and define a path for purchasing and replacing systems that have become outdated. The author attempted to create a unit to replace aging OPAC terminals and to provide a low cost computing option for budget constrained rural libraries. The initial attempt detailed in this paper involved purchasing and configuring an APC 8950 Rock single board computer. Unfortunately, due to limitations of this APC unit's existing Android based operating system, the initial effort failed to yield a computer that could be used in a library by average patrons. Future plans are outlined for the development of a second system using the more broadly accepted Raspberry Pi platform. The success of this technological endeavor may empower libraries and patrons in their communities to have more control of the technology they develop and use in the future.

For the better part of the last decade, while the creation of information increased exponentially and consumer consumption of technology grew at an unprecedented rate, almost all libraries in the United States have struggled with serious budget contractions. These economic and technical issues left our nation's rural libraries fighting to keep pace with technology while continuing to provide learning opportunities for patrons. This issue is further complicated by the lack of broadband Internet in many areas. Recent government efforts to bring faster Internet to rural America must be capitalized on and initiative must be shown to illustrate the value of this investment (Russell, 2013). Rural libraries continue to face this confluence of technical expectations and monetary stress, while looking for creative and low cost computing alternatives wherever possible. Developing low cost systems will allow rural libraries the opportunity to capitalize on any future development in broadband while keeping library budgets under control.

In recent years, large technology companies have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to create laptops for the developing world that cost under $100. However, these large commercial interests have had much greater success with the development of mobile computing capabilities using smartphones and tablets (Fildes, 2010). These low cost mobile systems, combined with the Googlefication mindset of many, have added to library struggles to stay current with technological advances as budgets continue to come under pressure. While we cannot control user expectation or corporate industry attempts to bridge the digital divide, we can now seek our own creative path in addressing library systems budgets and helping our customers easily access information by developing our own low cost computer systems for under $150.

Matt Enis (2013) illustrated how the White Plains Public Library in New York used the APC 8750 circuit board computer with Raspian Linux to create an OPAC terminal. After reading Matt Enis' (2013) article, the author, a systems librarian in at Northern Kentucky University, began discussing ideas with his colleagues to develop the use of small circuit board computers within libraries. These ideas quickly coalesced around the daunting challenge of computer lifecycle replacement and budget constraints for libraries of all sizes, but particularly with small rural libraries. Knowing how budgets have contracted at every level in the past decade, and how many libraries now are faced with the piecemeal replacement of aging desktop computers, the general idea illustrated by the Enis article truly warranted our further exploration by our staff (Enis, 2013).

The author decided to develop a system using the newer APC Rock 8950 circuit board to create a more robust internet/OPAC access system for under $150 to replace aging OPAC terminals at Northern Kentucky University. …

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