Tom McDougall was in Billings on Thursday morning to hear a speech by former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, so he thought he might also pop in at the Billings Public Library to find out how his technology is doing.
McDougall, owner and president of High Point Networks in West Fargo, N.D., last year helped the new library trim $350,000 worth of technology requests — computers, servers and other devices — down to about $160,000. That was still enough to pay for the 87 public computers in the new library, as well as the systems to help manage those computers, and other devices including the system that manages the self-serve checkout process.
“They didn’t need a $350,000 solution,” said Damon Andrews, an account manager in the company’s Billings office. Added McDougall: “It’s a very good move and it’s always cost effective to compare what people start off asking for with what they really need. We do more consulting than selling.”
McDougall and other High Point Networks employees — Andrews, Matt Peabody, Paul Wold and Mike Ross — were taken around the library Thursday morning by Kathy Robins, the library’s information systems coordinator, to see how the technology is being used.
Here’s one improvement that Lynne Puckett, another tour guide and the networking services librarian, likes the best: In the old library, she had to make updates to common computer applications, like Adobe Flash or Java, on each of 50 computers individually, during a time when no one was using the computer.
Now, with just a few keystrokes, she uses a KACE product from Dell to update each of the 87 shiny new computers simultaneously.
In the Integra Learning Lab, the guests were shown the progress that Volunteers in Service to America teachers Kersey Voss and Andrew Golden are making as they set up the Learning Lab Youth Mentor Coordination Project. The two expect to have the lab, for middle school and high school students, up and running by May or June. It’ll focus on science, technology, engineering and math education, as well as the arts.
McDougall said he was especially impressed with a sound booth inside the lab.
“Very few colleges teach sound engineering,” he said.
Puckett took the group to a second-story classroom with 12 computers and the adjoining commons area with 24 more, nearly all of them in use Thursday morning. She dimmed the classroom lights and lowered a screen to demonstrate how teachers, librarians and others use the facility.
“It’s an aesthetic building,” she explained to the visitors, “so it’s nice to have pretty computers.”
The group was shown three areas that serve the checkout and return processes. First, Puckett checked out a couple items at the self-service kiosks now familiar to any library user. Then the group was taken to a room where materials are automatically sorted into bins once they’re checked in and kept while they await reshelving.
Finally, the group visited the room constructed at the terminus of a 100-foot conveyor belt, the end of the journey for books that are returned through the outside drop slot one at a time so that each book or DVD can be electronically checked in directly at the slot.
“This is really cool,” McDougall said after completing the hour-long tour. “I like the building — it’s so open and light.” He said his fellow employees “kept talking about how cool this is, so I wanted to see it for myself.”