Library may become hub for broadband use

As one of the first institutions with access to fiber optic network
Thu, 10/11/2018 - 4:45pm
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The question of whether the Island Free Library’s broadband network will have enough bandwidth capacity to support increased and heavy usage was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Friends of the Library. The question was raised after the board’s President, Mary Sue Record, asked Library Director Kristin Baumann about an update on the broadband project.

“I think that’s an unknown,” said Baumann, who noted that she does not know what the demand would be. “This may be the only place where people can get broadband” until the larger build is completed.

Sam Bird, New Shoreham Facilities Manager, told The Times that, “The service would be a true 1G, which I am told would certainly be adequate to start. If demand were to dramatically increase, it can be increased.”

“The broadband capacity is purchased by Ocean State Libraries on behalf of the Island Free Library,” he said, “so it is not limitless, but 1G is good capacity for the foreseeable future.”

The library is part of the town’s Community Anchor Institution project, which is under construction and expected to go live on or about Jan. 1, 2019. The network will connect the library, Town Hall, the Public Safety Complex, the Block Island School and the Medical Center to four fiber optic strands embedded in National Grids sea2shore cable. The town is planning on expanding the service island-wide at a later date.

“In my world, this is about chairs and tables, chairs and tables, chairs and tables,” said Baumann at the meeting, noting that the library’s internet service is an open network, available to the public. “There will be a lot of people in here using the broadband network.”

Baumann added: “I was a part of some negotiation between the town and the provider, and I did clarify how we do not know what the demand would be. We really cannot guess. So we want to make sure enough broadband is available to us. And we have been assured that that is a quick flip of the switch.”

“During winter hours there may be more demand” for using the service, said member Kay Lewis.

Baumann said that school officials have been “asked to consider some open networking” in the school’s district. She said that the School Committee needs to adopt a policy for open network use.

“My vision and longer-term plan for the library is rooted in serving the community,” said Baumann. “Unless it’s special programming, if the building is open, the entire building has to be open. It’s just a parameter. So we could call it special programming, and have it be internet hours.” She said the library could open the basement for that explicit purpose.

Baumann added, “And if we open the entire building we have to have two people on the staff in the building. That is the parameters per the State of Rhode Island’s guidelines.”

Baumann said the library was “ready to jump” at the opportunity of having and utilizing the new broadband service. “We have terrific momentum. We have a humungous broadband project that is going to rapidly change what we’re doing here. And I think we have to jump.”

Library staff and salaries

In her Director’s Report, Baumann said she felt her staff deserved an increase in salaries. “I think we need to increase what we are paying them,” said Baumann.

“The one thing we discussed among the Board of Trustees, and actually approved, was upping the salaries for the staff, and what we needed to do to make that happen,” said Elizabeth Taylor, representing the Board of Trustees.

“Just for everybody’s education. They are union employees, within grades that have a pay range,” said Baumann. “The reason we’re exploring this now is because the union contract is being opened up for grade changes this year. Our concern is the library, but we hope everybody is affected by positive policy change. So while I’m fighting for the lowest paid librarians, I am also speaking for the (public safety) dispatchers, who are on the low end of that scale.”

Taylor said the librarians’ salaries have been “compared to other Rhode Island similar-sized communities, all of which have library staff paid at a higher level of wages within those ranges. Even comparing union-based latitudes for our local region the salaries are low. So, it’s just not fair.”

Book Club

Per the recommendation of Lewis, the Friends decided not to continue with the library’s book club due to a lack of interest, and instead host a “Pop-Up Book Club. Participation in book club had been dwindling,” said Lewis. “I’m not sure it’s viable anymore.”

A “Pop-Up Book Club” is a one-at-a-time book club that would be formed around a particular book. Lewis said the quality of the book will determine who comes to the meeting.

I’ve Got a Song

Baumann and the board lauded the performance of Nancy Hood, and her musical accompaniment by Barry Brown, at the library, on Saturday, Oct. 6. Hood performed “I’ve Got a Song,’ a narrative depiction of her experiences growing up during the McCarthy era.

Since the program was so well received, Baumann is hoping to have a return engagement at the library.

The next Friends of the Library meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m.