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  1. #1
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quality of library across the US?

    Lots of us use libraries when we tour.

    On last July's tour through Oregon and Idaho, I used libraries a couple of time to access the internet, get local information, and research upcoming route sections. I discovered that not all state/counties maintain their libraries at the same rate.

    Here in San Francisco, the library system is fabulous. It is supported by its own small bit of the sales tax and has a huge collection of printed, audio, video, and internet resources. It is, by far, the best library system I have ever used.

    The library I visited in John Day, Oregon was in bad shape. It was hard to move around given all the unsorted piles of books and such. Also, there was only 1 computer terminal that allowed access to the internet and it was in use.

    The two libraries I used in Idaho (small town Crouch and and medium sized city Rexburg) were much more attractive with plenty of computer terminals and well stocked and organized books.

    I realize my experience is limited to these few visits.

    Since many of us have used libraries throughout the states at various times, I thought it might be nice to get some feedback on different library systems as a guide for all of us.

    Ray
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  2. #2
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    Here's a ranking of the top libraries around the U.S.:

    http://haplr-index.com/HAPLR100.htm

    BTW, the funding problems of Oregon's local library system were very much in the news a couple of years ago, when Jackson County (Medford) was forced to close its library for awhile due to lack of funding. It's all about tax bases, local political support, etc.

    Would be interesting to see if local citizens in any community would agree to raise their taxes to improve their library facilities on behalf of travelers. I'd suspect that if bike tourists ever became a substantial/noticeable segment of library users around the U.S. we'd see day-use fees for non-residents.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 01-30-10 at 10:39 AM.

  3. #3
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    How things change:

    On my first trip across the US all I cared about was the AC.

    On the second , nothing but free and easy access Wi-Fi mattered. I'm still bitter at the Mineral Wells Texas Library for all the administrative hassles just to log in.

    In the UK it was much easier to find Wi-fi at a pub then anywhere else. What a great excuse to have another cider. I'll give out a big A+ to the Caernarfon Library.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Libraries everywhere are great friends of touring cyclists. A warm or cool respite from the weather. A place to take a short nap. A place to stay in touch.

    I've never had a bad experience in a library. Most are as accommodating as the rules allow. One matron in Arkansas did announce "You can't stick nothin' in the computers." Seems at least one did charge non-residents for computer usage.

    The aggravation is often where to find them. Many locals don't seem to know where they are, and street signage is scarce or non existent. And in small towns especially, the hours are often very limited.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  5. #5
    Senior Member bobframe's Avatar
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    An addendum to the OP's question: As a general rule, do public libraries offer Wi-Fi service? I would prefer to travel with a Macbook (or an iPad ...mmmmm) and log on to their network. Do they typically have a wireless network? Do they charge for it?

  6. #6
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    Here in San Francisco, the library system is fabulous. It is supported by its own small bit of the sales tax

    The library I visited in John Day, Oregon was in bad shape.
    No sales tax in Oregon. You get what you pay for. Although the libraries in Portland are a little closer to what you'd find in San Francisco. I think Portland libraries require a library card for internet use nowadays, but a librarian might be able to help you out in that respect.

    I like the space age library in downtown Seattle the best.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 01-30-10 at 11:48 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I like the space age library in downtown Seattle the best.
    Seattle public library is great. All kinds of online capabilities as well (reserve cd's, books, or dvd's online in advance).

    The whole King County system (surrounding) Seattle is good, too.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    Lots of us use libraries when we tour.

    On last July's tour through Oregon and Idaho, I used libraries a couple of time to access the internet, get local information, and research upcoming route sections. I discovered that not all state/counties maintain their libraries at the same rate.

    Here in San Francisco, the library system is fabulous. It is supported by its own small bit of the sales tax and has a huge collection of printed, audio, video, and internet resources. It is, by far, the best library system I have ever used.

    The library I visited in John Day, Oregon was in bad shape. It was hard to move around given all the unsorted piles of books and such. Also, there was only 1 computer terminal that allowed access to the internet and it was in use.

    The two libraries I used in Idaho (small town Crouch and and medium sized city Rexburg) were much more attractive with plenty of computer terminals and well stocked and organized books.

    I realize my experience is limited to these few visits.

    Since many of us have used libraries throughout the states at various times, I thought it might be nice to get some feedback on different library systems as a guide for all of us.

    Ray
    I don't know about US libraries in general, when visiting Virginia Beach, VA the library was kind enough to issue us a library card so we could access the library computers to access email. Most folks don't make use of library facilities anywhere near as much as they should. Here in Toronto our libraries are excellent and some offer quite new material as well, and there is always the option to get materials from other branches, sent to your local branch for pickup.

  9. #9
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobframe View Post
    An addendum to the OP's question: As a general rule, do public libraries offer Wi-Fi service? I would prefer to travel with a Macbook (or an iPad ...mmmmm) and log on to their network. Do they typically have a wireless network? Do they charge for it?
    It depends...
    On my Santa Fe Trail tour I carried a tiny WiFi tablet and used it for journal entries. It worked out well. I found a signal in a lot of little towns, but I think only one was at a library. I might be wrong though, the library was closed and I forget whether I used their wireless or had a signal from something else close by.

    The one library I went inside on that tour didn't have WiFi and I didn't even see a computer, even behind the help desk. Still I sat inside the library and used the wireless from the auto parts store next door. The librarian made a few calls and found me a place to camp (a church yard).

    In any case I found plenty of places to connect and upload journal entries and pictures. Between motels, private residences, fast food places, and others I had a connection at some point most days.

    I didn't have a computer on the Trans America, but we stopped at libraries when they were convenient. That wasn't as often as we thought it would be. More often than not small town libraries were closed when we passed through.

    BTW, I have not found it worth considering taking a laptop on tour. I have said that my little tablet (Nokia N800, 7 ounces) is the most that I will carry. Even the netbooks are usually three pounds by the time you include a charger. I think that an iPhone, Android phone, or Blackberry are the best answer if you are willing to buy an email and web plan. They serve as phone, web browser, GPS, mp3 player, camera, and audio book player and they also do WiFi. I am too cheap to pay $29.99 a month since I hardly ever use my own phone except when on tour. I would use my work supplied Blackberry if it wasn't on the Sprint/Nextel network due to the lousy coverage. Verizon is the way to go in my experience.

  10. #10
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    I was Blown Away By the size and Quality of the Salt Lake City Library when I visted there last Summer. What a bicycle friendly city.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    We used libraries extensively on our ride across the US, and it reinforced an observation I made several years ago when thinking about moving. The quality of the community's library is a good barameter of the health of the community. I lived in John Day, Oregon, and the condition of the library at that time was a pretty good indicator of the town's vitality. I've also been to very small towns that have outstanding libraries. Have any of you been to Cleveland, Ohio's library?

    The Bill Gates Foundation did a lot to help small libraries get "connected". We heard this from many of the libraians we talked to along the way.

  12. #12
    Hooked on Touring
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    Rural history is my area of study.
    Although I haven't worked directly in Grant County, Oregon -
    I have done work in other Pacific Northwest counties.

    First, despite all the talk about tax revenues, etc. -
    Let me state that Grant County has a population of 7500 and an area of 4500 sq miles.
    By comparison, the combined area of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties is 3800 sq miles.

    Even if there is sufficient funding there is a need to provide some library service over a very large area with very few people to do it. I suspect that there MIGHT be one full-time person and a couple of volunteers. The full-time person may also be the EMS dispatcher as well. That's the way it is.

    Many rural communities did not even get internet access until about 2000. And high-speed access is still not available in many rural areas. Such is the way things operate. I have always found that small rural communities are incredibly generous with whatever they have - even if it isn't as much as we are accustomed to.

    PS - Another comparison - Grant County is the size of the state of Connecticut.
    Last edited by jamawani; 01-30-10 at 10:52 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Jamawani
    Let me state that Grant County has a population of 7500 and an area of 4500 sq miles.
    And there used to be only one stop light--Now I think there may be 2!! I think your assessment is correct. I enjoyed living there, but the economy (timber driven) was really depressed. It will probably never fully recover, at least not driven by the wood products industry.

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