Computers for Public Use at Your Public Library

Return to Table of Contents

Story & Photos By Virginia Hatch

Seacoast Scene, October 28, 1998

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene]

The public computers at the Lane Library in Hampton are being used by Barbara Keenan of Hampton to do e-mail, Andrew Paquette of Hampton to do chatting, and Linda Pray of Hampton to look up collectibles.

Did you ever want to send and receive e-mail -- but, you didn't have a computer, or a browser, or a service provider? Well, now you can. Using the computers at Lane Library in Hampton, it is possible to use one of their IBM (no Macintosh computers available), which has a Netscape 4.05 browser installed on it to access Net Address (Net@ddress) or Hot Mail, companies which provide a home for your e-mail, a log-in name and a password for you, in exchange for demographic information about yourself; for example, your age, your income bracket and your occupation. Once you have the Net@ddress tools, wherever you are, you can go to the Net@ddress web site, log in and read your mail or send it. You could decide to go to the Cyber Cafe in Portsmouth, for example; and read or send your email from there.

Computer classes are available at the Lane Library, Hampton's public library, on Wednesday nights after the library closes at 8 p.m. The one-hour classes are self-contained and can accommodate five students at a time. There is no charge for this instruction which is given by Bobb Menk, internet librarian at Lane Library. Prospective students should call the library at 926-3368 to sign up for the classes. One week, the subject is How to Use a Web Browser. The next week, it is Basic Internet Searching. Students do not need to have access to computer equipment outside of class to participate in the classes. Reservations for these classes will be taken only two weeks ahead of the time requested, or, tutorials on these subjects are available on the Lane Library web site (

Six computers (five on the main floor and one in the children's room) are available for the public to use plus five additional stations (three on the main floor and two in the children's room) provide access to the library's catalog. One computer is devoted to a magazine article index.

The public computers are IBMs equipped with the Windows 95 operating system and the Netscape Navigator 4.05 web browser. The software available for use on these computers includes: word processing -- MS Word, Word Perfect; spreadsheets -- Excel, Quattro; presentation software -- Power Point, Corel Presentation; and sign design -- Print Artist. If you have your work on your own printer, either ink jet or laser.

For those who do not know how to use the Windows 95 operating system, the library can suggest places where appropriate instruction may be obtained.

Catalog computers have replaced the card catalog, which was the search tool to access the library's collection. Using the catalog computer, by entering a subject, title, or author, one may learn the call number of the book, the title, the author, and its availability (on the shelf, reference, checked out).

The policies for the use of the public computers at Hampton's Lane Library are: (1) the prospective computer user must have been issued a valid Hampton library card; (2) the prospective computer user must have the card in hand when coming to the library to use the computer; (3) the prospective computer user - may sign up for up to two one-hour time slots per day. (If no one is waiting, the time may be extended.); and, (4) the request for reservation of computer time may be made only for the same day, whether by telephone or in person.

Asked how the library intended to address the Y2K (Year 2000) problem anticipated with computers when the date on the computer reaches the year 2000, Internet Librarian Bobb Menk replied: "We've been looking at a variety of small patches and upgrades for software that we use. As for hardware, we're not going to do anything until the next fiscal year when the equipment that we'll have in the year 2000 is here. We don't want to solve the problem on equipment that will not be here in 2000. Besides, new equipment may not have the problem."

The Internet Librarian and Head of the Reference Department, Bobb Menk, has been at Lane Library for a little over two years. He was born and raised in St. Peter, Minnesota. After graduating from St. Peter High School, he attended McGill University in Montreal, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics. He attended library school at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has been a free-lance or consulting librarian for businesses with information problems; librarian for UNISYS corporation; and librarian, then library director, at BBN (Bolt, Beranek and Newman Company), which had an original contract with the United States government to develop the internet (BBN is now part of GTE) before coming to Lane Library as Internet Librarian and Head of the Reference Department. Menk has spent the last two years upgrading the Lane Library's computer resources, installing changes and upgrades on computers to be certain that they work with the present equipment, creating tools to answer questions posed to the library staff by its patrons, doing maintenance on computers and helping users to avoid inadvertently damaging the computers, computer security, helping people with problems relating to software being used on the public computers, evaluating internet resources, and,creating the library's web site at

The Hampton library's web site contains information on the history of the library, hours available, holidays, policies, reference resources, personnel, genealogical information and general information about Hampton and the seacoast for a total of over a thousand pages. An on-line catalog of the library's holdings will be coming around Christmastime.

The Reference Desk at Lane Library is staffed by Reference Librarian Alice Alford of Portsmouth. Head of the Reference Department, Bobb Menk of Portsmouth, observes.

Lane Library's Internet Librarian and Head of the Reference Department Bobb Menk demonstrates the use of the computer to access information on the internet.

At the Catalog Computer in Lane Library, John Dowling of Hampton, is looking up State of Virginia information to find an early colonist's name; so, he can answer No. 20 in the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Return to Table of Contents