What's with the long waits to check out books at the Belleville Public Library?

News-DemocratJune 20, 2013 

— City library patrons have experienced long waits to check out books and less access to public computers this year.

Belleville Library Director Leander Spearman said the city's Internet service provider is working on the issue.

All the public computers are in use now, but Spearman also monitors the situation day-to-day and adjusts availability based on traffic and the speed of the system.

Spearman said the library's bandwidth did not support both the circulation desk and public computer system. So when all the public computers were being used, then it slowed down the checkout system.

For weeks, the library operated only six of their 14 public computers at the Main Library, and none of the nine available at the West Branch Library.

Scott Morris, a spokesman for Windstream, said the company is solving the issue by doubling the available bandwidth at the library. The process could take about a month.

Windstream did not charge the city for additional bandwidth and simply is moving extra bandwidth from the Fire Department.

In May, a Belleville library employee spoke to the City Council publicly about Windstream's impact on library services and the drop in visitors to the library.

Maggie Hunter said the computer systems crashed often, causing the circulation system to lag. She said it embarrassed library staff to explain to patrons that it might take 30 minutes to check out their materials.

Spearman said he understands his staff's frustrations.

"They take the service they provide to the public to heart," Spearman said. "When they're not able to provide the level of service they're used to and it's not anything they can do anything about, it frustrates them."

Spearman believes the library's door count has not decreased permanently.

"Easily half the people who use the library don't touch a book, so when the issues are resolved with the public computers, then people will return," Spearman said.

Finance Director Jamie Maitret said the city's switch from AT&T to Windstream saves the city more than $70,000 a year.

In August, the City Council unanimously voted to approve a seven-year contract with the company for $1,900 per month for new phone equipment and maintenance.

All of the city uses Windstream for its phone service but only some departments use Windstream for Internet service.

Spearman said other city departments have experienced Internet issues with Windstream, but no other department interacts as much with the public as the library.

During the library's conversion to Windstream in February 2012, the library's phone lines were temporarily out and calls to the library were instead taken by the City Hall switchboard operator.

Spearman said the library has issues now in part because the library's equipment left over from AT&T is not compatible with Windstream.

"They're having this issue with several clients across the country, not just us," Spearman said. "The issues probably have gone on longer than it should have, but we're kind of at the mercy of Windstream."

Morris, the Windstream representative, said he does not know of such an equipment compatibility issue between his company and AT&T.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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