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Library will take credit cards, expand internet speed - downloadable books added

March 7, 2011

The Culver-Union Township Public Library is on its way to accepting credit card payments for overdue fines, damages, and other fees patrons may incur, following a vote February 15 at the library board’s regular monthly meeting.
The vote is actually just part of a series of steps, and technically allows Evergreen -- the Indiana State Library-based computer cataloging and circulation module utilized by Culver and many public libraries around the state -- to accept fine and fee payments on behalf of the library. Library staff member Theresa Hudson told the board that, once all steps have been implemented, library patrons can pay fees at home or from any internet terminal by logging into their account and using their credit card. The State Library would charge each library a three percent fee for handling the payments, with the remainder deposited directly into a bank account designated by the library. Library Director Colleen McCarty said patrons have been asking staff when credit card payments will be an option here, which is presently not the case.
The board also voted, following a slideshow presentation from library IT head Andrew Baker, to increase the bandwidth of the library’s public internet service by shifting from its current speed of three megabits per second, which now costs the library around $205 per month (or $2,460 annually). Baker said the library could increase its bandwidth -- which would increase the speed of service to patrons using its public computer terminals -- by 50 percent via an additional T1 data line, at $295 per month (or $3,450 annually). However, transition to a fiber optic line would be three and one-third times faster than the present speed, an increase to 10 megabits per second. The monthly cost would be $443, or $5,316 per month. However, Baker said fiber optic is actually a better value when calculated in terms of megabits per dollar.
Baker also shared internet usage statistics with the board, noting at peak times that the library’s bandwidth is “maxed out” and exhibits significant delays in function. After brief discussion, the board approved the fiber optic line for future use.
During her Director’s report, McCarty noted $1,445 in donations have come to the library in honor or the late Rita Lawson, a board member for the past several years.
She also discussed statistics gleaned from recently-purchased equipment to count the number of people entering and exiting the library each day, adding around 5,785 people came in during January. Board member Carol Saft encouraged honing hours during the day when counts are taken, in order to best determine which hours might be optimal for closing the library, in order to facilitate the possibility of Sunday hours at the library, as had been discussed at prior meetings.
McCarty also said Dr. Jean Preer, a professor with Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Sciences, will speak at the Culver library in April on the topic of intellectual freedom in public libraries, an event which is open to the public. McCarty urged board members to attend.
During the Treasurer’s report, library Financial Manager Jim Faulkner said the library’s annual report is complete and will be published before the end of February.
Faulkner also explained recent problems with the library’s accounting software, which he said he’s working with the vendor to resolve. Saft suggested investigating options for other software, which board member Alfred Nyby said is a possibility, adding the current software costs the library around $2,700 per year.
The board voted, at McCarty’s request, to add to the library’s existing policy an addition that, when a Level 1 emergency is declared by Marshall County -- such as was the case recently due to a blizzard -- the library should close. McCarty noted such declarations make it illegal to travel, besides emergencies, in the county.
Board member Peg Schuldt, who also sits on Culver’s Parks and Recreations board, made her monthly report to the library board, noting the park board reorganized in February with officers remaining the same (Leroy Bean is board president, Tammy Shaffer vice president, and Schuldt herself secretary). The park board, she said, accepted a quote for new fencing on the east end of the park, planned for this summer, and approved new benches in the Vandalia Village area of the park. The park board’s monthly meetings will now commence at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. as before.

Downloadable books, audio unveiled at CUTPL

Patrons of the Culver-Union Township Public Library this week can enjoy a plethora of new downloadable e-books and audio books as part of the library’s utilization of Overdrive, a paid, downloadable media system made available through the Indiana State Library’s Evergreen consortium, of which Culver is a member.
According to library Director Colleen McCarty and reference assistant Jon Gaskill, patrons need only their library card and access to the internet (specifically, the service is linked at the library’s website, www.culver.lib.in.us) to take advantage of thousands of mostly-current, popular titles for use with portable e-reader machines such as Nooks, Androids, Ipods, and the like (materials aren’t comsimilar devices (or MP3 players) to listen to high quality audio books.
Three items at a time may be checked out for seven or 14 days, says McCarty. If the item isn’t on hold, it can then be re-borrowed for the same duration. And overdue fines won’t be accruing via Overdrive. Once an item is due, it simply becomes unavailable and can’t be kept out late. Those patrons owing fines or having other “stops” on their cards which prevent them from checking out items at the library will also be unable to use Overdrive until their account is resolved. Patrons may also place up to three active “holds” on checked-out Overdrive items, with email notification when they come in.
“(This is) making materials accessible to people who have a desire to use digital media,” says Gaskill. “It’s all free and relatively open, and our patrons will be able to enjoy these new formats, and they don’t have to pay anything to download the components to do that.”
McCarty and Gaskill note a software download will be required the first time Overdrive is used, but the program is “pretty user friendly” and assistance is available from library staff, besides on the Overdrive site itself. The library plans to offer a class in the near future, for those who desire them.
Culver’s library, as well as the more than 90 fellow Evergreen libraries around the state that are also making use of Overdrive, will purchase more titles on an ongoing basis for the site, but McCarty stresses the library will also continue purchasing print books and audio books on compact disc, as in the past, for those not using digital devices. Adding downloadable music and movies may also be in the cards down the road, she adds.
“Technology changes the role a library plays in the community,” says McCarty, “and by extending our lending options through online services like this, the library continues to improve and meet the needs of the public. We are excited about it. We’ve had patrons asking for it.”
Overdrive joins paid research databases the library already offers its patrons through its website, including Newspaper Archive, INspire, and genealogy services Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest.

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