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By Jo Pearson, Assistant Director
Early this year, the Marion Public Library switched providers for our public Internet and Wi-Fi services to 100MB internet from the ICN. As our community, and consequently our city government, has grown, the city’s IT staff felt more and more reluctant about sharing city networks with the public users of library services. There were concerns about the security of the city’s network that includes our police and human resources departments.
In January, our city IT staff were ready to take the plunge; they had a new provider lined up for our public network and scheduled a time to split the services and make the switch for us.
The results were disastrous. With the new service provider, our public internet service slowed to less than a crawl. Patrons couldn’t get to websites, sites timed out, wheels spun, job and other applications couldn’t be completed, patrons couldn’t play games or stream video or access Facebook or open their email accounts. Every day, patrons would literally throw up their hands in frustration and walk out. It took only hours to learn up close and personal about the importance to our library community of high speed internet. We were without that service for several months as we struggled to find a working solution.
High speed internet matters for reasons other than the obvious already noted. Patrons often left in frustration because a page wouldn’t load and young children with them had reached the end of their patience. For security reasons, we had to tell many patrons that we were not able to upload and print their documents from staff computers, nor could we use their USB drives or log them into their email accounts on our computers.
Within a very short time, we switched to yet another provider, but service was not improved. Our staff was as frustrated as our patrons because of our inability to help improve anyone’s access.
We have been an ICN videoconference site for over 20 years, and though that videoconference equipment is no longer in demand, along with that, we do have high-speed internet cabling installed. In fact, three area school districts use our connection to provide their own internet access. We finally realized the solution to our problem was right here in our ICN room and reached out to the Iowa Communications Network to ask about having them provide us with internet and wifi services for our patrons.
That switchover was pretty fast and painless. ICN technicians provided excellent service and had us up and running very quickly. We were skeptical about the prognosis for a seamless switchover given our months of frustration and the inability of service technicians with the other companies to provide workable solutions. However, in fact it did turn out to be pretty seamless. And the day the new service went live, we had patrons giving us high fives and thanking us. It was most gratifying.