September 2, 2014

Iosco-Arenac library director gives update on district services and upgrades

New developments at Omer library

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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OMER — The Iosco-Arenac District Library Director Stephanie Olson gave an update on services and upgrades coming to the library system, including the Omer Little Eagle’s Nest Library, during the Omer City Council meeting June 26.

Olson said the libraries in Arenac and Iosco counties would be getting access to a new fiber optic line in the near future through the Merit Network. The line would link up with the three Arenac County libraries before moving on to Tawas and East Tawas, Olson said.

She said the fiber optic line would increase the speed of Internet service for library staff and users.

“It will improve our service immensely,” Olson said. “Our Wi-Fi is throttled right now, which limits how much it can be used; we can’t allow it to steal bandwidth used for circulation or the public workstations.”

Olson said the fiber optic line would be financed through the federal Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF is a discount provided by telecommunications companies, and goes toward libraries, schools, and hospitals. The amount of the discount is based on several factors, including location and the school lunch program for schools in the library district, Olson said. She said the Iosco-Arenac District Library receives an 83-percent discount.

Without the USF discount, it would have been prohibitively expensive to upgrade the Internet line, she said, in a rural area such as Iosco and Arenac counties.

Olson said while the fiber optic line is planned for libraries, schools, hospitals, and government at first, she believes it will eventually be opened up to residents as well.

The final cost of the project to the library district will not be determined until the project is complete, Olson said. Currently Merit Network is aiming for the line to be finished at the end of September.

Olson also highlighted the services offered by the library district, which she said expands its reach beyond the brick-and-mortar buildings.

These range from access to language programs, databases including the Chilton’s car repair materials and scholarly periodicals, to agreements with other libraries outside of the county and state to provide materials.

“We just sent something from Omer to a library in Napa, California,” Olson said. “We had a book here that they didn’t there.”

Olson said the district is also working on improving the e-book selection, given the popularity of e-book readers such as the Nook and Kindle. The district is currently using the Overdrive e-book system, which allow library members to “check out” materials to their reader, where the books are automatically removed once the due date passes.

The Omer library has also received a children’s computer from the district, Olson said, loaded with games and other programs downloaded onto the computer for free. Even the computer’s operating system is a free program; instead of the more common Windows system, it is running Linux.

The children’s computer is not hooked up to the Internet, she said, but the programs available are built around children ranging from preschoolers to those in the fourth or fifth grade.

The computer is not brand new, but rather was used elsewhere in the district for public access. That computer was scheduled to be replaced, and rather than throwing it out, Olson said the library board decided to move it somewhere where it could still be useful.

The Omer library also received $10,000 from the district for improvements to the facility, which range from new shelving and carts to decorations and equipment. Olson said some of that money is being set aside to purchase new book carts for the library staff, replacing the old ones currently in use.

The council is currently looking into improving the restrooms at the library to make them more handicapped-accessible and up to date, and Olson said the district should be able to contribute up to $5,000 for that project as well.

The $10,000 was collected through penal fines issued by the Michigan State Police, though only within the counties, and the Iosco and Arenac Sheriff’s Departments, Olson said.

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