LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
The Lackland libraries have installed stand-alone, high-speed Internet access through Time-Warner Cable, which is as speedy as a roadrunner. This new service quadruples the speed at which customers can get to their favorite Web sites.
"For the past year our Internet connection speed has suffered," said Library Director Jim Mainord.
"As more base facilities got their Internet service through Time-Warner and were added to the only T-1 connection for the base, service as a whole slowed," Mr. Mainord said.
For many customers the speed was unacceptable. According to Information Technology specialist Adolph Padalecki, customers were not happy.
"We'd start out all right, but as the day went on and more people logged on, the whole system slowed down. It was very frustrating for customers and library staff who fielded their complaints."
During the summer, the overloaded lines resulted in several computer outages, including a few that lasted for more than a day.
"The summer was bad," Mr. Padalecki continued. "There was a run of three or four weekends when computers were not available for our customers."
For some users, such as technical school or permanent party members taking college courses, the outages were more than an inconvenience.
"Lots of students come in to fulfill requirements placed on them by their training squadrons, like getting travel itineraries, printing out plane tickets or doing antiterrorism training," Mr. Mainord said.
"College students were trying to get assigned papers completed or needed to take online tests, and we just could not help them. Even those with laptops were at a standstill because our wireless service was tied to the same connection. It was a mess."
Frustration led to action as library staff worked with the 37th Communications Squadron to find a solution.
"We thought we needed a dedicated line, and many of the technicians at the (communications) squadron agreed," said Mr. Padalecki. "We worked together to get approval for service apart from the rest of the base."
Funding came from the 37th Services Division.
"They knew we were in crisis mode," explained Mr. Mainord. "Our flight chief, Jim Craney, really went to bat for us to get the money we needed for the upgrade."
The new service has been even more successful than library staff had hoped.
"We've had no downtimes since the new line was put in," a happy Mr. Padalecki continued. "That's even during our peak weekend usage, when all 68 computers are being used and more than 300 folks come in to use a computer," he said.
"Before this, (the library) had a dial-up connection. Now they've got fast cable connection, as well as wireless access, for their customers," he said.
Wireless security has also been improved at both libraries by the addition of wired equivalent privacy, which encrypts data over radio waves.
Attendance is way up, too.
"We had a big drop-off in customer use during the summer because of all the problems," said Mr. Mainord. "It was scary."
Customer complaints have virtually disappeared.
"It's so much nicer to pass along the positive comments and see our attendance numbers go up," he continued. "We want people who haven't been here in a while to come on back and see how good it is."