Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County Commission News

Columbia County Internet Policy
"Asinine - Crazy - Insane"

Empty computer work stations
Empty computer work stations at the Columbia County main library. The library director's policy is designed to keep computers unused at all library branches.

"Asinine – Crazy – Insane" are just a few of the printable words that Columbia County residents and officials have used to explain the County Library computer internet policy.

The sign up procedure that the staff has to go through to sign someone up for a computer looks like a script from an Abbot and Costello skit. "Who's on first"? The last line says it all.

On July 1, 2002, the Board of County Commissioners gave the library director the authority to establish time limits for the use of the internet computers at the County Libraries. This is a common practice in most libraries and common sense usually prevails. The ineffectual leadership of library director, Debbie Paulson, is once again affecting those most unable to defend themselves.

Due to a gift from the Bill Gates Foundation, the main library was recently able to expand its internet computer stations to approximately 17. Except at peak times, as would be expected, many of the computer stations are vacant. The other libraries in the system also received computers from the Gates Foundation.

Yesterday afternoon, November 4th, at about 2:20 pm, your reporter took Gllynell Presley of the NAACP to the library reference desk, which also serves as the area where one signs up for the computers. Over half of the computer stations were unoccupied at the time of Mr. Presley's visit. The majority of the computers have one hour time limits, however there are a few computers called the "15 minute" computers.

Puppy dog sign announcing the library policyOn the counter of the reference desk is a sign, with a photo of a little puppy dog, that reads, "Sorry, patrons are only allowed 2 internet sessions per day!"

Mr. Presley looked around and asked the young lady at the reference desk how long the sign had been there. She replied that it had been there as long as she had been working there. In a brief conversation that followed, it was established that if anyone of the patrons presently using the computers had needed additional computer time the two session rule would apply, even though over half the computers were unoccupied.

Ms. Paulson, the Library Director, has made a rule that works like this. If a patron uses two fifteen minute computer sessions – they are done for the day. Should that patron then want to sign up for a vacant hour computer – they are out of luck. Should that person want to sign up for a vacant "15 minute" computer – they are out of luck. In the Columbia County Library world, two sessions means two sessions, regardless of any unused computer stations.

This policy is also the standard of the two Columbia County library branches.

All the internet computers have been donated by the Bill Gates Foundation. It is not known if Mr. Gates would approve of such an inane use of his computers.

After your reporter had left the library, Mr. Presley shared his thoughts. After a brief discussion about keeping youngsters out of the hood, away from drug areas and in the "safe haven" of the library, your reporter asked if he could quote Mr. Presley regarding his thoughts on Ms. Paulson's internet library policy.

Mr. Presley, obviously distressed about what he had just seen, said, "You can use this if you clean it up a little."

It was agreed that Mr. Presley said, "This is asinine. I'm going over to speak with County Manager, Dale Williams."

Other members of the community also freely commented on Ms. Paulson's "two session per day" internet policy.

Barbara Lemley said, "It's crazy – It's insane.

City Councilman Jake Hill told the Observer: "Only in Columbia County. I don't want these kids on the street. There should never ever be an empty computer in the library if somebody needs to use it. If I have time, I will go speak to the library director and make my feelings known.

Lance MacDonald's frustration was evident when he told the Observer: "Who would think of something like that. Who would be ignorant enough to think of something like that? Who would approve something like that? There is no argument of having time limits, but if there are empty stations -- the most absurd thing I have heard today. It's almost to the point where I am speechless."

Former educator Rita Hetrick said, "They don't want the uneducated to get any smarter."

On November 3rd, County Manager Dale Williams told the Observer, "I'm going to see what I can do about that."

• Hopefully, this situation will be taken care of in "earth" time and not Columbia County time. Stew Lilker-ed.