Today, the Mary A. Weir Public Library is still using an old T1 Internet connection for its 31 computer terminals.
"Right now, we're having these glitches. The transmissions start and stop," Rekowski said. "It's just not fast enough."
He trusts state officials to work out a solution. Soon. He hopes.
"I'm really happy someone is thinking futuristically about all this. To get this equipment into the libraries is just phenomenal, but the cost and contracts need to be addressed," Rekowski said. "If costs increase and funding is not available, how are we going to pay for it? The technology has costs."
But Rekowski also sees the fiber's enormous potential. Libraries could share data and other resources. Staff training seminars could be beamed to libraries across the state. Library patrons could take part in webinars and video conferences.
"It's just mind-boggling to think of the possibilities," Rekowski said. "The next step is to bring this technology out to the community. We're all waiting."
$22K router given away
The Bridgeport Public Library gave away its new Internet router.
The state used $7,400 in federal stimulus funds to bring high-speed fiber to the Bridgeport library -- part of a $126.3 million statewide broadband expansion project.
But the Bridgeport library couldn't afford to pay for the new fiber line -- built by Frontier Communications -- and didn't want to wait years for the state to fix its e-rate contract. So the router was passed onto the city of Bridgeport, and installed at a data center owned by Citynet, an Internet services provider.
"It made more sense to house the router off site because of safety and security concerns," said Jimmy Smith, Bridgeport's assistant city manager. "We're very satisfied with Citynet's service."
The router now serves all city departments, including the public library, on a separate fiber network built by Citynet. The router also will run the city's phone system.
"The city has connected all facilities, and is running the entire city of Bridgeport on the [stimulus-funded] Internet router," said Jim Martin, Citynet's president. "The router the library received was overkill for the library, but because the library is part of the city, it's serving the library and the entire city of Bridgeport."
Because Frontier owns the stimulus-funded fiber network, Citynet had to install its own fiber cable to the library and charged $800 -- nearly 10 times less than what Frontier billed the state under the federal grant.
Given said she was unaware that that the router wasn't at the Bridgeport library.
"They're not permitted to give it away," she said. "They can't give it to another entity. I'll have to look into this."
And what happened to the 1,000-foot high-speed fiber line -- paid for by the federal stimulus -- Frontier extended to the Bridgeport Public Library? The $7,400 fiber cable isn't being used.
'I just wish it was up and running'
At the Clay County library, students crowd into the brick building after school, sitting down at computer Internet terminals to finish their homework or play video games.
"As you can tell, the number of people that come through here is constant," said Thorne one day last week. "We cater to anybody and everybody."
Library patrons also use the computers to pay utility bills, shop online for Christmas presents, and fill out job applications -- a practice that has increased significantly since CONSOL Energy shut down its Fola Operations mine in Clay County last August.
Other job seekers and students use the public library's computers to take online exams. On many afternoons, all 10 of the library's terminals are in use, which puts a strain on the Internet network.
"If they're taking a test and the computer bogs down, you have to stop and take the test all over again," Thorne said. "It's tough. It can bog down to the point it's not really usable."
The fiber in the basement of the Clay County Public library would fix that -- overnight.
Thorne has worked tirelessly to make the library a community hub, a place where people can stop in to borrow a paperback Western novel, peruse National Geographic magazines that date back to 1959, and where the elderly can go online to chat via a live video stream with their grandchildren in states far away.
But to keep up with the latest technology and Internet capabilities, the Clay County library -- the only library that serves the county's 10,300 residents -- must connect to the fiber line that's looped up and disconnected in a basement utility closet.
"I just wish it was up and running," Thorne said. "It would make a world of difference."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.