Four Creative Internet Projects

By Commings, Karen | Computers in Libraries, March 1996 | Go to article overview

Four Creative Internet Projects


Commings, Karen, Computers in Libraries


As more and more patrons are asking for Internet access, libraries are developing new and creative ways to provide the services for their user communities. Here are four projects from libraries around the country.

Fee-Based Internet Service Profitable at Cedar Rapids

The Cedar Rapids Public Library (CRPL) has been providing individual access to all Internet services through its Personal Internet Connection program since December 1993. This fee-based program has been a revenue generator for the library for over two years. The income supports the service and will make technology enhancements possible, according to Bryan Davis, assistant director.

The library has 275 users signed up for its program, which operates through 21 phone lines. Of the 275 users, 105 have signed up for the new PPP access. "We are currently generating about $5,000 to $6,000 per month in revenues," said Davis. "However, the picture is changing as more dial-up Internet providers are entering the market locally. Depending on how they fare, our earnings may grow or suffer as customers look for the best deals

CRPL was able to offer the services with no upgrades to its equipment beyond those needed for dial-up access, although it is looking to add a Web server in the near future.

"Many people think this is a great service," said Davis. "We see messages from people complimenting us on the service. I believe that some of our users sign up and stay with us because they see it as helping the library."

Davis warned that offering this kind of service is not for the technologically faint-hearted. "However, it is getting much easier to do than when we began," he said. "Packages are now available that have the software and hardware rolled into one. . . . A library may also find a commercial provider that would work with it in providing this kind of service with the library getting some of the income. There are many creative ways libraries could get into this business, and I encourage those who are interested in this kind of service to investigate the possibilities in their areas."

For more information on the Cedar Rapids Public Library's fee-based Internet access, contact Bryan Davis at davis@crpl.cedar-rapids.lib.ia.us or at 319/398-5145, ext. 223.

Washoe County Library Opens Its "Internet Branch"

Public library World Wide Web sites are not a new idea, but the Washoe County Library in Reno, Nevada, had a new idea: It designed and promoted its new Web site as a "branch library on the Internet." The site has two goals, according to John Kupersmith, Internet services librarian. The first is to provide information about the Washoe County Library, its branch hours, locations, programs, and policies. The second is to provide links to other Internet resources.

Designed along the lines of a traditional library branch, the Washoe Web site offers information about the library system. It has a catalog area, a reference desk, book stacks, and rooms for news and periodicals, government documents, maps, and children's materials. Users can click on any of the options with a Netscape browser and connect to information on such things as the Friends of the Washoe County Library, government resources, currency rates, and the current Reno City Council agenda. "I don't try to gather every resource on the Net," said Kupersmith, "but enough to provide a useful starting point and a user-friendly experience."

The Net resources Washoe offers include sources that mirror the traditional reference works, such as Bartlett's and the Thomas Register, as well as those that represent unique Internet capabilities, such as CNN Interactive and Carlos' Coloring Book. …

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