December 2002: Taking the Wireless Netork Plunge

Technically Speaking

David DormanBy David Dorman
American Libraries Columnist

Library consultant for the Lincoln Trail Libraries System in Champaign, Illinois.

Column for December 2002

Taking the Wireless Network Plunge

Is wireless in your future? If you are in an academic library, the answer is likely to be yes. But if you are in a public library you may not have thought much about the possibilities of a wireless network. Think again.

A number of public libraries recently announced they have taken the wireless plunge. One of them is the newly renovated Ponte Vedra branch of the St. Johns County Public Library System, headquartered in St. Augustine, Florida, whose wireless network debuted in August.

“We want to enable our patrons to use electronic resources with the same freedom they use print resources in the library—reclining in a chair of their choice or wherever they happen to be,” explained Sol Hirsch, the library system’s assistant director, when asked why the system chose to install the wireless network. The community is relatively upscale, so many patrons already have portable computers. For these patrons the library is loaning out wireless network cards for in-house use. For patrons who do not own portable PCs, the library will circulate laptops with wireless connections built in for in-library use.

Access to the wireless network is limited to browser-based Web services for security reasons. The range, even with a booster antenna, is limited to no more than 200 feet from the antenna. The separate DSL circuit that the library uses for the network costs $60 per month (after the e-rate discount is applied). Capital costs, outside of the laptop computers purchased, consisted of a few hundred dollars for the access point and $45 each for the wireless network cards. Wiring expenses could easily dwarf such minimal capital costs.

And there is more to wireless access than flexibility and monetary savings. Using wireless portable computers to access the Internet in the library gives patrons the same privacy that reading a book has. “Public access workstations” can be replaced by “private access workstations.” This would go a long way toward eliminating the emotionally charged issue of accessing pornography on the Internet, an issue that gains much of its power from the public nature of most wired access. Now that would be progress!

Open Source Sources

After seeing recent announcements for Open Source reserves software, portal software, and ILL software (see below), I decided to check out to see how many library-related Open Source programs are readily available. The site listed more than 80 projects. It also features a Library and Information Technology Association Guide for the uninitiated, “Open Source Software for Libraries,” available for ordering at

So who’s doing all this library-related OSS development? While sponsorship categories may be open to interpretation, here is my “quick and dirty” accounting of where all this OSS coding is coming from:

  • Academic institutions, 32
  • Not-for-profit organizations, 16
  • Individuals, 13
  • Commercial vendors, 9
  • Public libraries, 4
  • Dead links, 8

The numbers represent projects, not institutions or individuals. For example, OCLC sponsors half of the OSS projects in the not-for-profit category and the Olivet Nazarene University Benner Library and Resource Center sponsors three of the 32 OSS projects in academia. Kudos to OCLC, and to Craighton Hippenhammer, information technology librarian at Olivet, and the administration that supports his coding efforts. A nascent network is beginning to make its mark.

Contracts and Agreements

  • Endeavor Information Systems—with the National Library of Australia in Canberra, ACT (i.e., Australian Capital Territory, which is the more logically named equivalent to the District of Columbia in the United States), for the Voyager library-automation system to manage the library’s 3.2 million volumes, to replace a Dynix system.
  • Innovative Interfaces—with the Joint Educational Consortium, an alliance between Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University, both of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, for a Millennium system to replace the consortium’s shared Sirsi DRA system.
  • Sirsi—with the Library of Anthropology at the British Museum in London, for a Unicorn Library Management System to replace the library’s old Bookshelf LMS developed by Logical Systems (now IS Oxford).
  • TLC—with the Old Charles Town (W.Va.) Library and the Nueces County Library in Robstown, Texas, both for Library.Solution as the first automation system; with the Berkeley Heights (N.J.) Free Public Library, and the Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library in Gallipolis, Ohio, both for Library.Solution and the Kids Catalog Web, as well as Library Acquire and YouSeeMore for BHFPL, both to replace Dynix systems; with the Robert J. Kleberg Public Library in Kingsville, Texas, and the Clark County Public Library in Winchester, Kentucky, for Library.Solution systems to replace their Gaylord Galaxy systems; with the Staunton Public Library, Augusta County Libraries, and Waynesboro Public Library, for a shared Library.Solution system to be located in Staunton, Virginia, to replace Staunton’s NSC system, Augusta’s Gaylord Galaxy system, and Waynesboro’s Sirsi DRA system; and with the Juniata County Library in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, for a Library.Solution system, upgrading from a BiblioFile system.
  • H. W. Wilson—with the Louisiana Library Network, for access to six WilsonWeb databases by academic institutions throughout Louisiana.

Acquisitions and Alliances

  • Swets Blackwell and ABC-CLIO have agreed to link both ABC-CLIO’s Historical Abstracts and its America: History and Life to SwetsnetNavigator. Libraries with subscriptions to those two databases who also use Swetsnet Navigator will have access to the full text of an ABC-CLIO citation if the article is published in one of the 7,000 journals to which SwetsnetNavigator provides full-text access.
  • EBSCO and OCLC have announced that users of EBSCOhost can now interface directly to OCLC’s ILLiad Resource Sharing Management software. If a user cannot locate full text when searching EBSCOhost, and no links are present to other online full-text opportunities available to the user, a link to the ILLiad system will enable the user to submit a full-text request to OCLC ILLiad.


  • CrossRef, a publisher collaborative that enables researchers to navigate online journals via DOI-based citation links, has announced that it has increased the service’s matching rate on queries from 4% to 25% by employing Atypon Systems technology in version 2.0 of its linking software. CrossRef has 152 publisher members representing over 6,400 journal titles.
  • Emory University General Libraries has announced the OSS release of course/control, a reserves management system, available for downloading, that can handle both electronic and physical reserves.
  • The Internet Scout Project is seeking additional beta test sites for the Scout Portal Toolkit, software designed to allow groups to make its collections of discipline-specific resources and metadata available on the Web. 
  • Ian Ibbotson, the developer of Open Request, an Open Source toolkit for developers wishing to implement the ISO 10161 ILL protocol, has announced that the first beta release is available for downloading. This initial release is provided mainly for developer feedback.