I’m so pleased. The NPPL finally has a wireless network up and running. It is blazingly fast. Soon, the entire downtown strip of North Plains is going to be covered by the library’s wireless network. Here’s how it happened.
I would have plugged a wireless router into the network my first week at the library but it wasn’t that simple. Our interwebs come to us via a county sponsored pipe that doesn’t allow wireless networking. Hrm. My options for getting a wireless network up and running were to either bring in a second internet connection or wait for the library coop to offer it as a service to their member libraries. The second option was appealing in certain ways but was going to require a) more time and b) money for some equipment. Enough money to pay for a second internet connection for quite a while, in fact.
NPPL volunteer and North Plains resident Mark Lipscomb owns an IT consulting company called Complete Network Care and naturally is into techie things. One afternoon a few weeks back I was telling him about the situation regarding our lack of wifi and he said his company might be willing to sponsor a DSL connection for the library. I was pretty happy about this! We continued the conversation and I told him about a vision I had for a library sponsored wifi network throughout the main commercial strip of North Plains. His ears perked up and he mentioned that one of his clients, Wireless Applications Consulting, sets up, among other things, big wireless networks. I was very interested in this!
Drew Piriak of Wireless Applications Consuling, Mark and I met at the library the second week of December. We had an easy conversation and brokered a solution that satisfied all parties:
- A two-tier wireless network would cover the library and downtown strip of North Plains. One would be fast and free, one would be faster and not free (profits going to Drew and/or Mark).
- A small antenna would be put on the roof of the library. We’d contact a local business (with a tall building!) and ask if they’d let us put another antenna on their roof.
- Mark and Drew would provide the equipment and new DSL line.
- The NPPL would recognize the companies on its website and in the building with a sign.
I ran the details past the City Manager, Library Board, and Library Friends (who currently own the library building). Everyone was enthused and on board. The City Manager informed me that the North Plains City Council listed providing wifi downtown as a goal for 2008. Score for the library. The Rogue Pub has agreed to let us put a device on top of their building. Zero red tape, no hassles, easy as pie.
When users log on to the network named “North Plains Public Library” they will be directed to a page thanking them for using the network (that is, reminding them again that it is provided by the library), thanking the sponsors, and listing relevant library resources and news. I’ll likely use Feed2JS to bring in our website’s main feed (and maybe a NPPL new items feed if I can sort that out).
After plenty of doom and gloom about municipal wifi, the subject is enjoying a small resurgence. I think this is possibly the best library project with which I’ve been involved. It is providing a great service to the community, and is a great example of a library being a tech leader. The NPPL is remaining relevant. I’ve already been interviewed by the Oregonian about this and I think the Hillsboro Argus will run a piece too. This is good marketing for the library, and libraries in general.
There’s another exciting possibility. If the network has plenty of active users or the library finds additional funding for more Meraki devices, we’ll consider making inroads into the residential sections of North Plains, spreading the reach of the library even further. There are areas of North Plains that are broadband challenged so this could really solve a problem.
Thanks to all involved for making this happen!