CATEGORY: Alcorn County
By Jane Clark Summers
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – Technology is changing the face, scope and use of the 13 libraries in the Northeast Regional Library System.
Automation of the card catalog and bar coding of all books is complete and the region libraries are installing computers that will provide the public with free Internet access.
All books in the four-county library system are cataloged on computers through a program known as Public Access Catalog, Regional Library Director Betty Cranwell said.
Computer stations, providing a complete inventory of books in the region through the PAC program, should be up and running in all libraries – except Chalybeate and Marietta – by the end of January, Cranwell said.
The $473,000 automation project was financed with $200,000 from the state Legislature and administered by the Mississippi State Library Commission. Matching money came from the four counties served by the library.
The regional system headquartered in Corinth serves patrons in Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo counties.
Staff members where the PAC computers are operational have been pleasantly surprised that most people are using the computers with little problem, Cranwell said. Even the computer illiterate have tackled the technology with aplomb, she said.
Old card catalogs haven’t been updated since computers went on-line, Cranwell said, so everyone eventually will have to learn to use the Windows-based PAC system.
Trained library staff members are available for those who need assistance.
“I just can’t believe it,” Cranwell said of the automation. “We have been working on this for so long.”
The state funds were allocated in 1992.
New library cards
All libraries are in the process of issuing new library cards, which are similar to credit cards and can be used at all 13 libraries.
In addition to the computer stations that replaced the old card catalogs, 12 of the libraries are getting state-of-the-art computers to provide public access to the Internet. Chalybeate does not have telephone service, a necessity for the computer system, Cranwell said.
The Gates Library Foundation, founded by billionaire Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, is donating the computers and software to libraries in all 50 states.
Technicians with the foundation are installing the computers and instructing library staff in Mississippi, the third state in the nation to receive the Gates computers.
Alabama was the pilot state, followed by Louisiana.
The Northeast Regional Library System received 35 computer systems to be distributed to the libraries based on population, Cranwell said. Gates’ employees were in Baldwyn and Ripley on Thursday and will be in Corinth Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll be in Iuka Jan. 21 and Booneville Jan. 25.
The $105,000 gift includes the computers, 17-inch monitors, LaserJet printers, new Microsoft Intellimouse and Microsoft software, Cranwell said.
The hardware includes 400 megahertz computers with 64 megabytes of main memory and four gigabytes of memory on the hard drives. The heavy-duty hardware was made in a special part of a Gateway factory to provide high-end parts that can stand up to constant use, Cranwell said.
“This is a fantastic program,” she said. “Bill Gates’ intention is that it is a way to give Internet access to people in the community who might not be able to afford it.”
It’s hoped that local communities will pick up the seed project and pay for updating the system in the future, Cranwell said.
In addition to Internet access, the computers will provide other reference and educational software, including Encarta 1999 Encyclopedia, Bookshelf, Streets, Trip Planner and Virtual Globe. Software geared to children includes Creative Writer, three Barney titles and three Magic School Bus titles. The cost of the software alone is estimated at $1,700.