Local library won’t join drive to offer e-mail

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2001

[05/17/01] Computers at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library offer Internet access to patrons, but reading or sending e-mail is not an option.

Although many public libraries in cities around the state offer customers access to e-mail, Deb Mitchell, director here, said the service is not provided because e-mailing is a communication function, not part of a library’s mission.

The library has 10 computers available for public use, but Internet access is limited to research.

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“The board set the policy,” Mitchell said. “A decision was made that the computers would be used solely for information.”

Bill Nichols, chairman of the library’s board, said e-mail is an extension of telephone or postal services and is not the type of service a library provides.

“We also had to bear in mind that most of the people who want to use the library for e-mail are usually from out-of-town,” Nichols said. “They aren’t local taxpayers.”

He also said there hasn’t been much demand from local residents for the service either.

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau does offer e-mail access to visitors so those services are available elsewhere, Nichols said.

Kirk Sanson of the Mississippi Library Commission said abuse is an issue because offensive e-mails can be sent out from a library computer.

The commission doesn’t say whether individual libraries should or should not offer the e-mail access.

Also, some of the e-mail access in other libraries simply comes from using Web servers on the Internet, such as Yahoo! or MSN Hotmail. That option is not available at the Warren County-Vicksburg library despite Internet capabilities, Mitchell said.

The library has been expecting technological upgrades since March and Mitchell said she hopes those will be in place before Oct. 1, the end of the fiscal year.

The upgrades will include installing Windows, an index to books and a way for patrons to check their accounts.

Gaylord Galaxy Systems of New York will do the work and the budget for the upgrade is $243,000 with the county contributing $48,600 and a grant from the state library commission covering the rest.

The new system will also not provide e-mail services, but customers can be notified about their accounts through their personal e-mail addresses.

Nichols said the growth of the Internet and technical advancements will definitely give cause for the board to discuss the e-mail issue again.

“We will be revisiting our policy at some point,” he said. “But the last time we discussed it, which was just a few months ago, we found that our current policy was still valid.”