Thursday, June 30, 2011


“The principle of free thought is not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.” -- US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

America was decked out in red, white and blue to celebrate her birthday on July 4, 2002, which saw the usual parades, picnics, and fireworks. Flags had been flying in abundance since 9/11 as her people recoiled from unprecedented national trauma.

For a change of pace, my mother and I decided to attend the Conover parade followed by activities in the community park. Looking back, I believe we may have unconsciously sought a return to a less complicated time. This small northwoods village where both my father and grandfather attended grade school seemed a likely place to recapture the true spirit of Independence Day.

It felt good.

We parked along County K between the community park and the post office, then carried our lawn chairs closer to the corner where the procession would turn east from the town road that runs parallel to highway 45. We watched a typical assortment of decorated vehicles representing various business and civic groups. Excited children waved small flags, scrambled for tossed candy and squealed at the fire truck sirens.

After an interval of nine years, there’s only one parade entry I recall in any detail and have thought about many times. A group of citizens had created costumes for an ensemble presentation of American patriotic symbols. There was an Abraham Lincoln, a George Washington, the Statue of Liberty, and a man dressed like Paul Revere cheerfully dragging something along the asphalt like an animal on a leash.

On closer inspection, that something turned out to be an effigy of an Arab with a rope around its neck.

Some people laughed. A few applauded. Many simply maintained uncomfortable silence following the effigy’s progress up the road with their eyes. The sunshine remained undimmed, the red white and blue flags hadn’t faded and the children still gamboled at the edge of the pavement waiting for the next handful of miniature tootsie rolls to be flung their way.

But it wasn’t the same.

Mother and I were quiet as we walked back to the car, passing the tall wooden sign marking the entrance to the community park where the Arab effigy now hung as though from a gallows. We decided to skip the picnic and go home.

I have struggled with the image of that disturbing piece of cloth ever since. If the effigy was labeled “Osama” instead of suggesting Middle Eastern people as a faceless group would it have been different? Perhaps. Following 9/11, there was a fair amount of frustration over the al-Qaeda leader remaining at large despite American boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Two of those Army boots belonged to my oldest nephew in 2002.

There was a need in those first raw months for something to kick, a way to reduce a big scary thing down to manageable size and dominate it, even laugh at it. Americans were angry. And we were afraid.

In 1918, my grandfather left Conover to “fight the Krauts” in World War I. That’s when “patriotism” born of war fears targeted Americans of German ancestry and led many like his own father to change their names and disguise their heritage. When my father’s generation went to war after Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were sanctioned and threatened in turn.

In recent years it’s been good to be at parades that proudly celebrate our country and its diversity with love, and without fear. It is my hope that exploiting anti-Muslim sentiments for political advantage will wither and die now that the most hated and visible symbol of al-Qaeda has at last met his ignoble end.

This July 4th, I’m proud to once again be working on behalf of the public library, a beloved and visible symbol of Americans belief in the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in a free democratic society. Libraries stand ever ready to enrich our minds and defend our right to know, just as other institutions protect our safety and property.

Happy Fourth of July!

OverDrive’s Training Month: September 12 – October 7, 2011

Mark your calendars for OverDrive’s Training Month 2011… the perfect opportunity to learn what’s new for your OverDrive service, plus get a refresher on the basics.

This program is free to staff members of OverDrive partners. No travel is required; all you need is a computer (with headphones or speakers) to attend.

Our core courses will be available as anytime recordings, plus two new ‘hot topic’ courses will be presented live starting Sept. 12.

Recorded courses: Available anytime (and anywhere!) to help you prepare for Training Month. Listen at your convenience … plus pause, stop and fast forward to suit your learning style. All of our core courses will be available via our Training Center to help you catch up on the basics.


•Browse, Check Out, Download

•Collection Checklist

•Community Outreach

•Download Station

•Mobile Update

•Patron Assistance


Live courses will be offered Sept. 12 – Oct. 7, 2011 hosted by our Training team. These courses will focus on current directions for OverDrive…
 •Meeting the challenges of the eBook explosion

•Simple steps to connect your customers with digital books

Prizes (really great prizes!) will be awarded to winners of our Download Discovery contest, a trivia contest comprised of questions from each session. Each time you attend a course (live or recorded) you’ll have another chance to enter.

Registration opens July 18. Whether you’re a repeat participant, or this will be your first year … you’re sure to learn something new at OverDrive’s Training Month 2011.

By the way, if you’ve had a good experience in the past, please post a comment to let others know. Bonus: We’ll give you a ‘free’ entry to the 2011 Download Discovery contest if you comment before July 18.
More information on Training Month 2011 will be coming soon. Stay tuned!
(Cassie Renner, OverDrive Training Coordinator- June 27, 2011) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

As Wi-Fi Havens And E-Book Centers, Public Libraries Aren't Going Away Soon

The American Library Association has just published [1] its newest investigation into the state of the nation's public libraries, and the news is...actually rather good. You may think that odd in an era of ubiquitous alternative distractions to reading a real book--from iPads to Kindles--but it's really these new high-tech devices, along with the Internet that's keeping libraries flourishing. The one fly in the ointment is that funding cuts seem to be threatening many services.

While just a few years ago public libraries were all about borrowing books to read, or finding somewhere to study alongside handy text resources, the Net has changed much of this. Now 99.3% of the U.S.'s libraries offer Net access, via a public PC or open Wi-Fi, and 64% of libraries say they're the only free access point in their communities. With that figure stepping up to 73% for rural libraries, and 70% of libraries reporting that public use of their Net facilities increased in 2010, it's easy to see that the public library is still hugely relevant in a digital era.

But what are people doing in libraries nowadays? It seems that Internet nexus is extremely handy for people seeking jobs, via vacancy listings and other resources: 88% of libraries offer this, and 72% say their staff are helping clients fill in application forms. Meanwhile, 25% of libraries are in partnerships with government agencies and other groups to build e-government services--almost double the 13% figure from just two years ago. Though we live in a digital era that obviates many reasons to travel, it seems the library still is the social hub for data sharing.

Meanwhile, the percentage of libraries offering e-books has lurched upward over recent years, and now more than two thirds (67.2%) of all libraries offer e-book access in some form. That figure is up from 65.9% last year, and a measly 38.3% in 2007. We can maybe see where Amazon's selling all its Kindles from the next statistic though: 87% of urban libraries have e-books, compared to just 52% of rural ones.

Despite this compelling evidence that libraries continue to be vital hubs in many communities, the economic reality is not that great: 60% of libraries reported flat or decreasing budgets for this year, up from 40% in 2009. Similarly 16% of all libraries sliced their opening hours as budget cuts (and possibly increased tech-driven operating costs) impacted, and 17 states said that some libraries closed last year.

Have local governments overlooked the humble library, with politicians forgetting that the library PC is a vital lifeline for millions of U.S. jobseekers? Considering recent unemployment news [2], this seems shortsighted.
(Fast Company June 27, 2011, Kit Eaton)



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

 "A teacher affects eternity… he can never tell where his influence stops." – Henry Adams

Last Sunday on Father’s Day, my thoughts turned to my late father the teacher and the lessons I learned from observing his contributions to others.

It has been 70 years since my dad, Howard Adams, graduated from Phelps High School in 1941, the proud salutatorian in a class of 12 seniors. His educational odyssey continued at what was then the closest post-secondary school – Central State Teachers College in Stevens Point. He finished his degree at Lawrence University under the GI bill, and then earned his master’s attending night classes and summer school at UW-Madison.

Today, Dad would appreciate that graduates of Phelps and other small northern Wisconsin high schools are able to take advantage of the Nicolet Area Technical College University Transfer program en route to a four year college or university.

My father demonstrated an enthusiasm for knowledge that was contagious.

Men and women who benefited from the nearly three decades he devoted to education, first as a social studies teacher and then as a guidance counselor, still go out of their way to tell our family how he made a difference in their lives. Mr. Adams wasn’t as flashy as the more popular faculty members at Mayville High School, but teens knew he was somebody they could count on to keep their confidences and help them find answers.

I think of Dad as the original George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He taught me that none of us can ever know all the ways in which our words and actions will ultimately make a difference to those we encounter on our daily walk through our own wonderful lives.

That concept of cosmic connection – the sense of personal responsibility for setting events in motion to lift people up rather than tear them down – was his greatest legacy. Not only to his two daughters, but also to each young person he counseled for 27 years.

The hopes and dreams of each student were important in Dad’s eyes regardless of the educational path he or she chose to achieve success. Every occupation had merit and offered limitless opportunities for contribution through hard honest work.

He was a patient man who didn’t have to prove anything to anybody or seek recognition; he already knew who he was and that was enough. During the years Dad served as school liaison to the Salvation Army, few knew how often he quietly arranged for new pairs of shoes, winter coats or eyeglasses wherever he saw the need.

Despite chronic illness that forced his disability retirement at age 45, my remarkable and courageous father managed to retain his “think positive” attitude for the last two decades of his life. It was his final and best lesson.

From my parents and other memorable teachers and mentors, I learned that education is a journey, not a goal, and that we are ALL teachers by example. The value of education is measured in countless ways from cradle to grave.

Andrew Carnegie called the public library “the people’s university.” As information equalizers for all Americans, public libraries both parallel and complement the contributions made by their equivalent in schools and colleges.

Lifetime learning is also a key value for those of us working in school, academic, public and special libraries. We librarians do our best each day to make connections, offer a wide range of choices, and otherwise shake the tree of knowledge for everyone who depends on us to be there when needed. We will never know the countless ways our work has made a difference.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Changes With The Economist and BadgerLInk

Through BadgerLink, Wisconsinites have access to millions of journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Because of rising costs associated with providing access, starting one year from now in June 2012, EBSCO will no longer provide full text access to the magazine The Economist. However, EBSCO will continue to provide abstracting and indexing for this title.

Please note that lack of full text access to this title is not the beginning of a trend. This is a conscious choice by one of the BadgerLink vendors to reduce costs to its users.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact BadgerLink Technical Support using the webform found at
(WISPUBLIB, June 17, 2011 - Kara Ripley, Reference and BadgerLink Training Librarian - Department of Public Instruction)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LITA and Top Tech Trends for 2011

The Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) is piloting a new YouTube presence, and the Top Technology Trends Committee is excited to be a part of this effort. The Committee is working on a pilot project to share short, informal videos from past and present Top Technology Trends panelists. These videos will serve as current sound-bytes on technology trends of interest to the library community. It’s hoped that the number of videos will grow over time, and play a role in fostering a sense of community during the time between ALA’s Annual and Midwinter meetings. The Committee would like to thank Jason Griffey for producing the first video, available now at LITA LibraryInfoTech’s Channel:

(American Libraries Direct, June 15, 2011)

Monday, June 13, 2011

BadgerLunch Summer Webinar Series

Focus on Reader’s Resources

Thursdays at noon

30 - 45 minute sessions

July 14, 21, 28, 2011

Not sure what to read next? Can’t find a book your reluctant reader wants to read? Join us Thursdays in July for resources in BadgerLink that will help you select summer reading materials.

July 14: TeachingBooks – Explore thousands of resources about fiction and nonfiction books used in the K-12 environment to encourage the integration of multimedia author and book materials into reading activities.

July 21: NoveList K-8 – Learn about this fiction database designed with a bright, appealing layout especially for elementary and middle school age students.

July 28: NoveList – Focus on readers’ advisory service! NoveList provides access to information on fiction titles as well as feature content includnig author read-alikes, book discussion guides, reading lists and more.

All sessions are open to everyone. Topics include a description of the information/learning resource, searching techniques, and helpful features. For a flyer with complete schedule and links to the webinars, visit the BadgerLink home page at and click on the BadgerLunch Webinar Series Announcement link.

The archive of previous sessions is found at

For more information, please contact:

Kara Ripley
Reference and BadgerLink Training Librarian
Department of Public Instruction

BadgerLink provides access to quality online information resources for Wisconsin residents at

BadgerLink is a project of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning. The project is funded through the Wisconsin Universal Service Fund with partial support provided by the Library Services and Technology Act using funds received from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

BadgerLearn - A Collaborative Learning Space

BadgerLearn is a joint project under active development by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning (RL&LL), Wisconsin Library Services (WiLS) and the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC). Our immediate vision is to be a place where librarians can discover & access resources of professional value. Some examples of the resources you'll currently find here include:

•Streaming tutorials about OverDrive e-book use
•Archived BadgerLunch webinars
•Streaming tutorials about Adobe Digital Editions
•Tutorials for productivity tools such as MS Word and Excel

BadgerLearn's ultimate vision is to be a sort of co-op where library staff can use existing resources and share new resources they develop with the greater community. By reducing the need to re-invent the wheel, librarians can spend more time doing what we do best: serving our users.

BadgerLearn continues to evolve. We've made some pretty major changes of the past weeks & we'd like to share just a few of them with you:
  • An introduction/tutorial video is now available on front page. This video describes some of the key search, browse, and user features.
  • The color scheme has changed to a more neutral palette. We'd love to know what you think!
  • You can now create a profile on BadgerLearn. Creating a profile allows you to access an ability to rate resources, and to post on forums (that's right, forums are coming too!).
  • Resource ratings. Users now have the opportunity to rate resources they encounter. The ratings you assign to resources are then used to suggest other resources you may be interested in whenever you click the "get recommendations" link in the navigation bar.
  • Lastly, the team is in the process of setting up forums, so that discussions can take place about training materials, as well as provide a venue for open discussion about BadgerLearn itself.
We've developed a survey. Feedback from this survey will help us to steer our ongoing development efforts, and we'd love it if you'd be willing to help us by taking it.

Thanks for all you've done to help us so far. Your feedback has been invaluable & we've high hopes for the future.
-The BadgerLearn project team.

Friday, June 10, 2011

June Is AudioBook

June is Audiobook Month

Are you looking for some fun ways to celebrate Audiobook Month?  Well here are some great suggestions from Booklist Online.

Grab great Get Caught Listening promos
 – sound clips of favorite authors to incorporate into a radio Public Service Announcement, posters to highlight your library’s audiobook downloads or physical collection, YouTube videos to add to your website – all highlighting the pleasures of listening to literature.

Teachers can use the audiobook fact sheet in summer reading packets to provide parents with the benefits of listening. Summertime is here and the time is right for listening!
(Booklist Online, June 1, 2011 posted by Mary Burkey)

Wisconsin Valley Library Service - Financial Assistant (Part-time)

Wisconsin Valley Library Service - Financial Assistant (Part-time)
Due to a retirement, the Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS) in Wausau, Wisconsin is seeking a part-time Financial Assistant. This position is responsible for various office, financial and human resource functions of the system which includes but is not limited to payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable and state/federal reporting requirements. Position reports directly to the WVLS Director.

WVLS is a federated public library system, located in Wausau, Wisconsin, and provides service to 25 public libraries in its 7-county area. For more information about WVLS, visit our web site at:

Qualified candidates should hold a 2- or 4-year degree in accounting and have 2-3 years accounting experience. Experience in use of QuickBooks and Excel software programs is required. Candidates must possess strong oral and written communication skills, enthusiasm for new and emerging technologies, ability to handle multiple projects, ability to work collaboratively with others, and a sense of humor. Candidates must have a valid driver’s license and the ability to travel independently.

Compensation range for part-time position: $16.46 - $20.32 per hour, depending on experience and qualifications. Attractive pro-rated benefits package is provided.

A complete job description is available at:

Submit cover letter, resume, and application available at:  with complete contact information for three references by June 27, 2011 to: Barbara Freimund at or Financial Assistant; Wisconsin Valley Library Service; 300 N First Street; Wausau, WI 54403.

Position will remain open until qualified candidate is determined.
Equal Opportunity Employer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Counterpoints to Access Wisconsin's statements regarding omnibus motion 489, the BCCB grant, and WiscNet

Access Wisconsin statement:  The UW created WiscNet despite a statutory prohibition and staffs it with $1.4 million per year in UW-Madison employees.

Counterpoint:  WisNet was founded as a consortium of 24 equal partners from public and private colleges in 1990 with UW Madison administering the startup grants from the National Science Foundation.  The network expanded beyond the original charter members using two subsequent NSF grants and then evolved a series of sustainable business models that permitted many other institutions to participate. The $1.4 million is funding that WiscNet pays to the UW for technical support rather than a UW subsidy to WiscNet.  WiscNet has been providing Internet access and related services long before most telephone companies entered the market.

Access Wisconsin statement:  Nothing in the Jt. Finance action prevents the UW from meeting its own telecommunication needs.

Counterpoint:  Point #25 in the Jt. Finance action clearly prevents the UW from being a member or partner with any other entity that provides telecommunications services or information services.  Taken at face value, this prevents the UW from being part of advanced research networks, like Internet2.   

Access Wisconsin statement:   Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize a government agency such as UW-Extension to duplicate and compete with our services.

Counterpoint:  Access Wisconsin members and other private sector telecommunication carriers in the state currently receive a subsidy of over $90 million annually in taxpayer money from the federal Universal Service Program as an incentive for expansion to underserved populations. WiscNet was designed to link public institutions in service areas where the private sector had declined comparable development of affordable infrastructure.

Access Wisconsin statement:  On the UW grant, to add insult to injury, the UW planned to hire an out-of-state firm to lay the fiber optic cables.

Counterpoint:  The UW reached out to numerous Wisconsin phone companies via an open bid process seeking their partnership on the grant.  None agreed to participate.  

Access Wisconsin statement:  The UW grant would harm the BadgerNet  network, which already offers reliable, affordable broadband services.

Counterpoint:  While being very reliable BadgerNet is less than affordable to many community institutions.  For example, a 100Mbps service is $6,000 a month and a 1,00Mbps service is $49,500 a month.  While these costs may drop with renewal of the BadgerNet contract, reliable evidence of future affordability is not available at this time.   The UW grant clearly shows a return on investment of 3.5 – 4.5 years.  After that an institution will be able to get 1,000Mbps service for about $10,000 annually vs. $594,000 annually, which is the current BadgerNet rate.

BadgerNet is a beneficial network for many of our schools and libraries only because it is heavily subsidized ($16.8 million annually) by state funds (an indirect subsidy to the telecommunication carriers.)  This state subsidy is limited. As schools and libraries need more affordable bandwidth not supported by the subsidy, they must pursue other options besides BadgerNet.

Access Wisconsin statement:  UW’s grant claims to serve rural areas but it will also serve more urban areas like Wausau. 

Counterpoint:   As stated above, BadgerNet is less than affordable to many community institutions, in both rural areas and urban areas.

Access Wisconsin statement:  At a time of limited pubic resources, these types of wasteful spending (i.e., UW grant) are unacceptable.

Counterpoint:  Limited resources demand investment in quality services like WiscNet, supported by fair share contributions on a statewide basis.  

General statement: WiscNet and the Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) grant are killing the Badgernet Converged Network (BCN).

Counterpoint:  The availability of WiscNet services over the BCN are a major part of the value of the BCN.  If WiscNet were no longer a service option, the BCN would still hold much of its value for site to site data connectivity at moderate data speeds, but would lose value as an Internet transport medium.  In fact, many BCN consumers would be financially constrained to obtaining lower quality, but affordable consumer broadband Internet (ie. through Charter Business Cable, or through CenturyTel DSL).  This direction could be a real disservice to the BCN.

The BCCB grant and the Community Area Network (CAN) projects are designed to build local, interconnectivity and the capacity to support large scale collaboration between local resource pools (ie. Universities, Colleges, Hospitals, Clinics, K12 schools Libraries, Emergency Services, and other public entities).  The networks fill a service and infrastructure void, and would allow private telecommunications companies access to a lucrative high end service market that currently does not exist.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Information on Points 23-26 in Omnibus Motion 489

Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS), a local government library system entity which serves 36 public libraries and branches across 7 counties:  Clark, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, and Taylor.

I will open with some context, painting a brief picture of how WVLS and its member libraries consume network and Internet services.  Then I will clarify each of the four major points of concern in omnibus motion 489, points 23-26, and explain how they will impact Central Wisconsin communities (from a library oriented perspective).  While the Central Wisconsin library and K12 community will certainly be impacted, it is the Wausau community that will see the biggest direct impact as it is most effected by the millions of federal grant dollars that will no longer be available.

Opening Comments:
There has been much confusion as to the nature of WiscNet services vs. Badgernet Converged Network (BCN) vs. AT&T or other private telecommunications services so first, let me provide some context which should help clarify.
WVLS is a member of WiscNet and utilizes WiscNet as its Internet Service Provider (ISP), providing internet connectivity to all but two of our libraries over Wisconsin TEACH/Federal eRate subsidized Badgernet Converged Network (BCN) data lines.  Our Wide Area Network (WAN) consists of the WVLS aggregation site or “central site” with 34 remote sites, each connecting back to the WVLS central site via BCN data lines. 

So to use an apt analogy that I unfortunately can’t take credit for, BCN provides the hose, WiscNet (or another ISP) supplies the water.  One can hook up their BCN hose to any of several State of Wisconsin approved ISPs.  WiscNet is on that list and for WVLS and its member libraries, is the most cost effective.  The conversation should not be about BCN vs. WiscNet, as that would be like having a conversation about garden hoses vs. a water source.  It just doesn’t make sense.
The WVLS central site maintains two “circuits” or virtual connections over a single physical data line (two smaller hoses within a larger pipe).  One of those circuits connects us to our WAN members; the other connects us and all of our WAN members to our Internet Service Provider, currently WiscNet.  The total bandwidth connecting those remote sites back to WVLS is approximately 100 Megabits per second (Mbps).  WVLS currently connects the WAN to the Internet at 30Mbps, about one third of the total potential consumption by member libraries.  At first glance, only maintaining a third of the potential bandwidth consumption may seem like a disservice to the member libraries, but in actuality, the libraries average peak usage is just under the 30Mbps.  That ratio is efficient for our system.

Our cost for Internet and membership services through WiscNet is approximately $12,500.00 annually and this is shared by our connected member libraries.  Our cost for the central site BCN line is about $3000.00 annually and most of our connected members each have a $1200.00 annual cost for their own BCN lines.  This combination of communications framework and low cost Internet data transport is a real boon to public entities like libraries and schools, especially those in the most rural areas. 

Point 23:
[Telecommunications Services: Prohibit the Board of Regents, the UW System, any UW institution, or the UW-Extension, directly or indirectly, from doing any of the following: (a) receiving funds from any award from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) project; (b) disbursing, spending, loaning, granting, or in any other way distributing or committing to distribute any funds received with respect to, budgeted to, or allocated for the BCCB project; and (c) participating in the planning, organization, funding, implementation or operation of the BCCB project.  In addition, require the Board of Regents to reduce the amount expended on telecommunications services during the 201-13 biennium by the total value of any funds, goods, or services that have been or will be distributed or committed to be distributed by or on behalf of the Board of Regents, the UW System, any UW institution, or the UW-Extension on or after May 1, 2011, to any participant, contractor, or supplier related to the BCCB project.]

The Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) grant is intended to support demonstration efforts in four Wisconsin communities, one of which is Wausau.  These are pilots, or demonstration exercises intended to discover the value of community owned Community Area Network (CAN) infrastructure.  The grant funded project is explicitly designed to offer private telecommunication providers access, so they may compete for service offerings to connected public anchor institutions.  

These demonstrations are designed to show public and private sectors, as well as community members and taxpayers the value a CAN might bring to all parties involved.  Point 23 describes the elimination of University of Wisconsin’s leadership participation in this grant which, all things considered, would effectively kill it.  The need for such intervention is questionable as there is no unfair competition created in the project.  The grant dollars are not being utilized for a huge research project. It’s a matter of whether any business opportunities are created (successful BCCB project demonstration), or the market remains unchanged (unsuccessful or legislature prevented BCCB project demonstration).  Private telecommunications companies will potentially benefit from a successful demonstration.

What it means to Wausau and Central Wisconsin constituents:
Wausau is one of the demonstration communities.  Connecting many of the Wausau Area community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, colleges, hospitals, and various city-county services) is a planned project that has been in development for many years and has a long term plan behind it.  Leadership in this CAN project is found in Chet Strebe, CIO of Northcentral Technical College.  The BCCB project works in conjunction with a mission that’s already in place, allowing the Wausau CAN project to grow faster than expected in return for providing an example of what a CAN may offer to a community in the form of technology benefits. 

Planning reports of the BCCB project indicate that this project would bring several million federal NTIA dollars into the community and would help further develop community owned infrastructure that is already in development.  The BCCB grant is creating a (currently non-existent) network in Wausau to which local and national private telecom providers can connect and offer advanced services.  Currently available private infrastructure is neither adequate nor cost effective to accommodate projected growth beneficial to public/private partnership and beneficial to economic expansion.

The prevention of this project would reach out beyond Wausau.  As a CAN member/subscriber, WVLS would gain low cost access to additional bandwidth which would allow us to connect to our members via the BCN line at the full 100Mbps of the pricing tier we can afford.  We would have a second data line via the CAN, which we could use to connect to the most competitive ISP available (in all fairness, likely WiscNet under current pricing models).  This combination would allow us to serve nearly 100Mbps of Internet service to member libraries, along with all of our other network services.  Maintaining our 30% peak usage ratio means the libraries could utilize a combined 300Mbps (an average of just under 10Mbps each) bringing their service levels in line with modern needs and demands.  If the CAN stalls, we would be limited to sharing our 100Mbps BCN line with WAN and Internet connectivity limiting us to a maximum of 50Mbps of Internet served, or about 150Mpbs total library service, which is an average of just over 4Mbps each; a very limiting figure in today’s information rich societal needs.

Point 24:
[Modify current law to specify that the Board of Regents shall not offer, resell, or provide telecommunications services, directly or indirectly, that are available from a private telecommunications carrier to the general public or to any other public or private entity.  Define telecommunications services as including data and voice over Internet protocol services, Internet protocol services, broadband access and transport, information technology services, Internet access services, and unlit fiber.]

Point 24 is questionable as there is already an explicit statement (on page 8 of motion 489) that these actions are already discussed and prevented under current law.  It is possible that the intent is to “update” current law with additional limitations and/or terminology, but the point is moot as the UW, to my knowledge, does not participate in any such actions (since they are already prohibited by law).

What it means for Wausau and Central Wisconsin constituents:
I find myself confused by the apparent redundancy of Point 24.  This point may be better addressed by UW staff directly if any additional implications are to be considered.

Point 25:
[Prohibit the Board of Regents, the UW System, and UW institution, or the UW-Extension from becoming or remaining a member, shareholder, or partner in or with any company, corporation, non-profit association, join venture, cooperative, partnership, consortium, or any other individual or entity that offers, resells, or provides telecommunications services or information technology services to members of the general public, or to any private entity, or to any public entity other than the Board, the UW System, any UW institution, or the US-Extension.]

Point 25 is already under heavy scrutiny by key members of the legislature.  Staff members in Sen. Kapanke’s office (and possibly others) are working to revise the language.  It basically states that the UW group of institutions can’t connect to anyone, anywhere, but themselves.  This has generated media attention because it would put the UW into a very tight and small container.  It is essential for the UW to be connected to the world; and vice versa.    

What it means for Wausau and Central Wisconsin constituents:
The UW is a world renowned academic system and a vast and invaluable information resource for Wausau and all of Wisconsin.  Preventing telecommunications connectivity outright, or even forcing it through the limiting constraints of current private sector infrastructure, would be detrimental to University of Wisconsin Marathon County, Northcental Technical College, local private colleges, many local and regional hospitals, local libraries, and K12s, and to other local public institutions.  Losing access to the shared resources represented by the UW group would impede progress for Wausau’s Community Area Network and severely limit local public and private technology and network infrastructure growth for many years.

Point 26:
[Specify that WiscNet could no longer be a department of office within the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology beginning July 1, 2012, and delete $1,400,00 PR from the UW System related to WiscNet in 2012-13.  Require the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a program audit and a financial audit of the Board of Regents’ use of telecommunication services and relationship with WiscNet.]

WiscNet is a 501(c)(3) entity and separate from the UW group, and the specifically named UW-Madison Division of Information Technology.  As a WiscNet member and service consumer and as a general technology services consumer, UW has an interest in minimizing the resources it commits to technology services. 

What it means for Wausau and Central Wisconsin constituents:
The potential for damage to the Wausau and Central Wisconsin community is severe.  Prohibiting UW from being a WiscNet consumer, coupled with not allowing UW to save costs by closely partnering with their cooperative, means increased costs all around.  Even if WiscNet survives the loss of UW as an eligible consumer, WiscNet’s overhead would remain, and would be distributed among a smaller contributing pool of members.  This will in all likelihood be unsustainable. 

Final Comments:
If the telecommunications providers had the infrastructure, the capacity, and the pricing to offer the services needed by public sector in a way that was cost effective to taxpayer supported institutions, I would be all for utilizing the market competition to gain the best services and use my limited technology dollars to their utmost efficiencies. That landscape does not currently exist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

“One World, Many Stories” is this year’s Wisconsin Summer Library Program theme. Many of our colleagues have been making the rounds of area elementary schools in recent weeks, visiting individual classrooms to promote summer reading at the public library.

I admire the children’s librarians who possess enough self-confidence to deliver the pitch without needing the camouflage crutch of a goofy costume. During the 27 summers that job was mine at the Rhinelander District Library, I found it much more comfortable to hide behind a character and costume that matched the theme.

The last “Reading Between the Lines” told the story of the year I almost got arrested as Super Librarian. Some other incarnations were as a raccoon, ringmaster, antique car driver, rock ‘n’ roll queen, gorilla chasing zookeeper, fisherwoman, tacky tourist, reading coach, Captain Book the pirate, and frontierswoman Sally Ann Thunder Whirlwind Crockett.

During the “Readlicious” summer of 1990, I spent three days in a rented chicken suit that reeked of cigars and lost 10 pounds being chased through the school district by library assistant Kay Pohnl, who was dressed as a meat clever wielding chef.

The Children’s Department traveling road show began in 1974 when the theme was “Yankee Doodle Rides Again.” I impersonated Doodle while our two high school pages, Cheryle Zettler and Arlene Warmouth alternated as the front and back ends of my faithful horse.

Cheryle literally should have quit while she was a head. During the next eleven years, she portrayed a burglar, a creature called The Whangdoodle, and a hodag among many others.

In 1978 for “Star Worlds at the Library” Cheryle played straight woman to my character of a lost space traveler named Koob (book spelled backwards). Covered head to toe by a hooded metallic fabric suit with gloves and boots, my identity and voice were further disguised behind a tinfoil-lined fencing mask.

Our skit called for me to suddenly enter a classroom or school library, interrupt Cheryle’s discourse on summer library fun and snatch a book to use as fuel for my disabled spacecraft. A bumbling attempt to “freeze” her with my finger when she thwarted the booknapping resulted in freezing myself instead. This allowed her to finish her speech while I stood motionless for a time before gradually thawing to deliver the exit line, “Take me to your library!”

One afternoon found us waiting for the first three grades from West Elementary School to assemble in their small basement library. I was hiding in a closet in the far corner of the room opposite the only exit where Cheryle was stationed. Excitement crackled in the air as weary teachers exhorted their charges to squeeze closer together so everyone could sit on the floor.

My sudden appearance was greeted by a tumultuous response. “Star Wars” had just been released and interest in all things galactic was at a fever pitch. As I waded through a sea of up-turned faces and reaching hands to a point about six feet from the door, I realized this was something more than the ordinary chemical reaction to our antics. Tiny hairs began standing up on the back of my neck.

The children started poking the calves of my legs as I stood frozen, then progressed to pinching my space creature bottom and delivering surreptitious karate chops to the backs of my shiny knees while I thawed. At my first step toward the exit several kids leaped for each leg and clung to my boots like sucking mud, dragging me down to the floor.

“Good grief!’ I thought, “They’re playing for keeps!”

The scene took on the texture of a South American soccer stadium riot as thirty children tried to rip the silver suit from my body to see what was inside. I was unable to defend myself because I couldn’t see anything and feared ending up unconscious in the middle of the floor clad in nothing but my underwear!

Until the day I check into that great library in the sky, I will never forget the look of pure ghoulish glee on the face of one blond-haired cherub who seized the opportunity (while I was momentarily pinned on the linoleum) to press his nose against the mesh of the fencing mask and gaze deeply into my panic-stricken eyes.

Fear gave me strength. Shaking the children off like a grizzly bear being pestered by a pack of beagles, I somehow regained my feet and charged for the exit, shouting, “TAKE ME TO YOUR LIBRARY!!!”

Cheryle and those teachers who realized I was genuinely in trouble had been unable to reach me or be heard above the melee. Now she and I fled across the hall to the furnace room, closed the metal door and put our backs to it until library aide Gerrie Martini sounded the all clear.

“Dear Space Creature,” began one of the many apologies delivered to my desk by day’s end, “We are sorry that we pushed you kicked you pinched you tripped you and shoved you and we will never ever do that again and if we do you can send us to the prinsibel (sic)!” The colorful spaceships decorating the letters proved it was worth a few bruises to capture the imagination of a room full of young readers.

We had a wonderful summer.