Library going digital

Marisa Yanez, 13, foreground, and Eddie Enriquez, 14, background, both of Clovis, use Internet terminals at Clovis-Carver Public Library. Photo by Eric Kluth.

By Eric Butler

These days at Clovis-Carver Public Library, if you see a line of people sitting on the couches, it’s not that patrons have settled down read their books — or found a good spot to escape the sun.
It’s more likely they are queuing up for a chance to get on one of eight computer terminals — six for adults, two for children — that have Internet access.
“They are lined up at the door when we open in the morning and it goes, generally, until we close at night — (the terminals) are all full,” said Marilyn Belcher, library director at Clovis-Carver. “A lot of them are local people, some of them are people traveling through who want to check their e-mail.”
Belcher added that the Internet computers are easily the most popular facet of the library’s resources.
Catching up on e-mail is one big reason those without Internet access at home are heading to the library. But that’s not the only one, Belcher said.
Patrons give a variety of reasons for venturing onto the World Wide Web.
For instance, in June, the library occasionally swarmed with graduate students monitoring storms building in the area. These “storm chasers,” jump on the Internet to look at weather patterns through various Websites.
“During the summer, we try to chase some storms. We stay in hotels and, hopefully, it has Internet. They may have a computer in the lobby with Internet access, but you don’t get that a lot,” said Justin Sieglaff, a graduate student with the University of Wisconsin. “We don’t have enough money for our own computers, so we kind of rely on libraries to help us out.”
Once, said Clovis-Carver reference librarian Vivian Grimes, she helped a whole family witness a wedding over the library’s computers.
The wedding took place in Las Vegas and was fed over the Internet.
“They had the address to go to and I showed them what to click on,” said
Grimes, added she had to “modify” the library’s usual standard of almost-complete silence.
“They didn’t yell, but they were excited,” said Grimes of the mother, father and sister of the bride — among others — who were present. “I never had seen anybody watch their wedding over the Internet before, so I wasn’t going to say anything about the noise.”
Clovis-Carver has a one hour time limit on using the Internet, unless no one is waiting. And, being a public facility, it has other rules you may not be required to follow at home.
“We do try to (monitor), because we feel this is a family place and no place for pornography — and we ban people from use of the Internet if they are caught doing it,” said Belcher, who added that this has occurred, “not real often, but it does happen.”
For the moment, the library doesn’t have plans to increase its number of Internet-access computers.
“It would be great if we had the funds to do it, but not at the present time,” Belcher said.
Belcher has been at Clovis-Carver Public Library for the past 18 years.
Asked if she could envision a time when computers would replace printed material as the most popular resource of a library, Belcher said she could not have before she took her current job.
“Computers are great, as long as they work. When they don’t, it’s frustrating. I was at a school library before and when they told me they were bringing in computers I said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad to be out of here,’ ” said Belcher.
But, she added, she has since changed her mind about the invasion of technology.
“I love it like this, I really do. To me, it’s easier rather than having to type all those little bitty cards — we just type it in the computer,” she said.