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Delta County Libraries tackle computer use challenges

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Every year, Delta County Libraries sees an increase in the number of patrons who enter a library to use a computer. Over 238,000 computer sessions were recorded in 2015, up more than 5,000 from the year before. Whether folks are checking email, playing games, printing documents, or researching on the Internet, this service has proven to be a valuable tool in supporting community members, and it is heightened by some of the fastest Internet speeds found in Delta County.

All this computer traffic can be a challenge for circulation staff to monitor, especially on busy days, and this can mean that users do not all receive equal time on the computers. Staff members work to enforce time limits to make computers available to waiting patrons, but this requires keeping a close eye on the time each user spends on a computer. Given the number of public use computers in the district, this can be extremely difficult and staff members often have to put down other important projects to focus exclusively on computer use.

Unfortunately, without knowing exactly when computers will become available, users may become disheartened and leave the libraries, or choose not to begin a project because they do not know the extent of their session.

"It is our goal to meet the needs of every person who enters our library buildings. This means that we cannot have users leaving because of lack of effective computer management," says district director Lea Hart, adding, "And we really can't afford to constantly buy more computers to meet demand."

Finally, a real solution is underway that will provide equal computer access to all patrons and reduce the need for staff intervention. A recent contract with Marmot Library Network for Information Technology services has provided Delta County Libraries with access to a product called Envisionware. Instead of pens and paper, computer users will sign up for computers with their library cards. Time is monitored through the system, and users can reserve and renew computers during the day, always knowing when their sessions will begin and end. Additionally, printing will be managed through the computer, ensuring that all users know the cost of their printouts before they commit to printing. This will avoid accidentally high printing costs for patrons and reduce the cost of copies left behind for the libraries to absorb.

"As with any big changes, we will all need some time to adjust to the new product," says regional manager LaDonna Gunn. "But I have used this product before and I believe that it will greatly benefit Delta County Libraries. We will see improvements in terms of staff time and patron access, as well as statistics and tracking, which are very important to library administration."

Delta County Libraries hopes to implement this system by the time school gets out in May. More details will be coming forth in the next month. In preparation, patrons are encouraged to stop in their libraries to make sure that their library cards are up to date and fines are paid. Library staff hopes that computer use in the libraries will continue to grow, and is eager to help patrons make the transition smoothly.

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