The library can be a wonderful resource for knowledge and information. To help residents gain this information, the Lodi Public Library has meticulously-kept computers galore. But even the best-equipped library can be defeated by one single component: a slow Internet connection.

“When we’re using a lot of computers here, it is at a snail’s pace,” said library staff member Jackie Rea. “Sometimes patrons have to come up to the desk and do (tasks) up here.”

That’s the most common complaint facing the Lodi Public Library. While a 90-minute computer time limit helps make the computers available to everybody, the slow Internet connection creates potential problems for anybody trying accomplish vital tasks within that time.

“Every day, I seem to be chasing (the time limit),” said Albert Rubiolo, who uses the library’s computers to check his email, conduct job searches and keep in contact with others.

The library’s Internet access can be divided into three types, according to library director Dean Gualco.

The first is the library’s public Wi-Fi network, available for patrons with their own devices. The speed for that source is “screaming fast,” Gualco said, stating that the Internet capabilities of the library modem rivals that of Lodi’s city government.

Next are the library’s computer learning center and Homework Help Room, which both have computers hooked up to a separate wireless router. Those routers are then connected via Ethernet cable to a modem, whose traffic is controlled by Lodi. These computers, an Internet speed test revealed, had even faster download speeds than the Wi-Fi.

Finally, there are the 25 public computers available to guests by reservation. These computers’ Internet is run through Stockton’s library system, which connects databases with libraries around the area as a efficient cost-saving measure, according to Gualco.

“We get a great benefit. It is much cheaper for us.” Gualco said. “In principle, it’s a good thing.”

Another feature for the combined database is the automated time-out system. Before working with the Stockton system, Lodi librarians had to monitor users’ computer time manually, which sometimes created friction between patrons and workers. Now, the computer logs itself out after 90 minutes.

But while this current setup saves time and money for all involved, the tradeoff is control over the speed of Internet connections. As a result, reservations for the public computers have drastically declined in the past year. On top of that, employees have to deal with a slow lookup system as well.

“I am at my wit’s end,” Gualco said.

A quick test conducted Monday morning affirmed the validity of these complaints. The first trial — booting up a web browser’s home page. On a reserved public computer, the home screen took 62 seconds to completely load. By comparison, a library-Wi-Fi-connected laptop and computer learning center unit needed just 13 and 30 seconds to complete the task, respectively.

The next trial: loading a more complex website — in this experiment, lodinews.com. The Wi-Fi laptop loaded the lodinews.com home screen in a blistering 10 seconds. The learning center PC wasn’t far behind at 13 seconds. As expected, the public computer came in last place with an agonizingly slow 87 seconds.

The one task at which the public computers performed well? Library catalog searches. A title search for the play “Waiting for Godot” produced a result in about 1.5 seconds. While the other two media garnered slightly faster results, the half-second difference is virtually negligible.

Talks between Lodi and Stockton have been ongoing for about six months, Gualco said. But any data speed improvements would have to be done from Stockton to Lodi, not the other way around.

“The Lodi IT has been great, but it really is a Stockton issue,” Gualco said.

For now, Rea recommends asking permission to use the computer learning center laptops between classes if it is open and staffed by a volunteer.

“Usually (patrons) can get things done a lot faster and get help,” Rea said.

And, noticeably slow or not, the Internet access continues to be an undoubtedly useful service for guests.

“It is slow here, but it’s also a great advantage,” Rubiolo said.

Contact reporter Joe Benapfl at josephb@lodinews.com

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