There’s no doubt that the St. Joseph County Public Library has been a pioneer for libraries nationwide with respect to modern telecommunications technology. In 1996 the St. Joseph Public Library became the very first public library in the United States (and the second in the world) to be part of the Internet and post a web page. Given the institution’s forward thinking and appreciation of high speed and connectivity, it should come as no surprise that it was also one of the first subscribers of the Metronet.
Patrons of the library have their director, Don Napoli, to thank for his foresight. He first became interested in the use of the Internet in the early 1990s and then worked to bring that service to the South Bend area via a dialup connection to a computer in Chicago. Napoli’s experience in the area of public library telecommunications led in an invitation to join the Board of the St. Joe Valley Metronet in its formative stages.
"The developers of the Metronet realized that they could establish an inexpensive and very high speed Internet connection via the fiber running through South Bend," says Napoli. "I was asked to be involved because of my work with the public library − a true ’information kind of place.’"
Napoli grew more convinced about the merits of the Metronet when he learned about the very reasonable charge for the high speed connection. The cost to the St. Joseph County Public Library is now one−third of what it used to be, and since subscribing to the network the library has increased its data capacity from an initial five megabytes to 60 megabytes.
"The Metronet benefits library patrons as well as library operations," says Napoli. "We have a total of 200 computers that are on all day at ten different locations, and all are going through the Metronet line." The high speed of the connections and their significant capacity allow library patrons to use many more computers simultaneously and access virtually anything and everything with no delay in response time.
In addition to the hundreds of public library computers supported by the Metronet, the main branch runs all of its support functions via the Metronet fiber, including books and audio visual inventory. Add to that the entire patron database, 125,000 total, which includes information about each patron and what they’ve currently checked out. Says Napoli, "We’re talking about a huge inventory of information, and the Metronet takes care of all it very well."