By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – For years, patrons at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library had to share 12 public-use computers, resulting in frequent waits for 30 minutes to use the Internet.
Since mid-November they’ve had a bank of new PCs at their disposal, part of the ongoing capital improvements plan of First Regional Library. The difference in access is dramatic.
“There used to be a lot of waiting for a computer, but now they have more computers than people waiting,” said Andrew Gordon, a church pianist, who often uses a library computer to check email and Facebook. “The screens are wider, and there’s enough space for people to sit. With the old ones … we were all kind of crammed in.”
Even with the 167 percent increase in numbers, head librarian Laura Beth Walker said there’s still occasionally a wait.
“We’ve maxed these out a couple of times. When school gets out, about 3:30, that’s when they’re most crowded,” she said.
Social media is one big attraction for library computer patrons.
“I use it maybe twice a week – mostly Facebook,” said Myisha Miller of Oxford.
The library is also an important link for educational pursuits. Tim Martin, a cosmetology student from Memphis, said he uses the library’s computers for school-related information when his smartphone won’t adequately access a website.
“I’m here about every other day,” he said.
Walker said work is another big driver of computer use.
“We have a lot of people who apply for jobs, because so many jobs require an online application now,” she said. “We also have a lot of people who work on resumes or just do job searches.”
Even with the occasional lack of vacancy, Walker said the computer expansion has made life easier for patrons and staff alike, eliminating most of the need to enforce a 30-minute limit on use.
“We love that people don’t often have to wait for a computer,” she said. “That was the hardest thing about having 12 – telling someone that someone else is waiting for the computer they’re using.”