My name is Ryan Huffman, the Computer Systems Director at the Adams County Library System. While many of us can probably hazard a guess as to what that entails in a general sense, most of us have become so familiar with the devices we use every day, we don’t ever really stop to think about how those things work–but we certainly notice when they don’t. As the saying goes, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”, right? Well, there’s usually somebody behind the scenes fixing it regularly so it breaks a lot less frequently.
I support devices at all 6 branches of the Adams County Library System including public access computers, circulation desk computers, printers, fax machines, telephones, scanners, tablets, laptops, projectors, etc. If it plugs into a computer or connects to the internet, I probably take care of it. There are currently over 100 desktop and laptop computers within the system that require semi-regular maintenance and updates to make sure things run smoothly. When computers are not updated, they can become slow and may start encountering problems, so updating devices before problems arise is generally a good idea. Luckily, with the right software, I can access many of those devices from right here in Gettysburg so I don’t have to spend most of my time traveling all over the county.
One of the most important things I keep an eye on is the internet connections in each branch. Once a “nice to have”, readers on the younger side might find it difficult to imagine life without the internet but especially in more rural areas, reliable internet access can still be difficult to obtain at home. That’s one area where the library can be an essential technology resource to the community and because the Gettysburg branch is in a central location, it serves not only the residents in the borough but many of the small towns and villages in the surrounding area. But we don’t play favorites here at ACLS! Loss of internet can be just as inconvenient at a smaller market branch where there might not be a coffee shop down the street offering free WiFi. Even the circulation system at the library uses the internet to connect our library system to over 100 libraries all over Pennsylvania for interlibrary loans. Since I can access network devices remotely, keeping things running around the county frequently depends on a reliable connection right here in Gettysburg.
So that’s what I do to keep things moving, but what do I do to keep things moving forward? To paraphrase an observation made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that later became known as “Moore’s Law”, the processing power in our devices doubles approximately every two years. Whether that feels like a blessing or a curse, technology keeps moving forward and we as consumers try our best to keep moving forward with it. To that end, another important part of my job is keeping up with technology trends and learning about how the library system can offer modern services to patrons without the benefit of an unlimited budget. A few years ago, a modest computer and a decent internet connection might be enough for the average user but with the new emphasis on distanced learning and remote meetings, a better network and faster computer could be required. The technological needs of a community can change over time and as a vital resource to those we serve, the library needs to keep up with those changes as much as possible.