Super-Speed Internet Comes to Crowell

Accessing information online has become increasingly common in the digital age. Connection speeds have escalated and libraries all over the country now feature computers alongside traditional bookshelves. The Crowell Public Library is no different, except patrons at San Marino’s information hub will now be placed directly at the forefront of this technological trend, thanks to a new Internet system.
The California Research and Education Network, or CalREN, is a noncommercial, high-bandwidth scheme specifically designed to meet the Web-intensive requirements of universities. Recently installed at Crowell, CalREN is 67 times faster than the previous Time Warner Cable and AT&T services offered at the library.
“It’s a light-fiber cable that transmits the Internet at gigabyte speeds,” said City Librarian Irene McDermott. “ … Previously, we had a consumer-grade connection, which was 15 megabytes per second — on a good day. It usually ran about [half that speed]. … People were really unhappy. So much information — since we’re an information place — you have to access over the Internet. It’s not a joke. We were really kind of wondering what we were going to do.”
The solution arrived when the California State Library’s public benefit group, Califa, was authorized to negotiate with the organization that operates the faster CalREN Internet — a body called the Corporation for the Education Network Initiatives in California.
Since Crowell is affiliated with the California State Library, it was eligible for CalREN. City Manager John Schaefer brought the idea to the City Council in February and the plan was adopted. The total cost of setting up the CalREN router and establishing connection inside Crowell was approximately $18,500, although the library qualified to receive the service at a discount of almost 72%. An $8,638.25 chunk of the cost, accounting for setup and monthly fees, is also expected to be returned to the city in the form of refunds.
“There’s money in the budget now to supplement and to support and to give us rebates for this amazingly fast connection,” said McDermott, who has worked at Crowell since 1997.
The state provided additional grant money to help cover the cost of the router, which is hidden from sight inside a closet. Installation lasted several months and involved underground rewiring, but did not interfere with patrons’ daily experience at the library.
CalREN went live at Crowell on Oct. 30, and the free network will be nearly invisible to users, save for a terms-of-service agreement screen when logging on from one of the 36 public computers or a personal device.
How have patrons responded to the new-and-improved Internet connection?
“The response has been the lack of complaining,” said McDermott with a laugh. “I think people just expect fast Internet. When they weren’t getting it — and it really was very slow — they rightfully complained about it. But now that it’s super-fast, it’s not only going to help our patrons, it’s going to help us.”
Crowell is planning to enhance the overall Internet experience by using a camera to record library programs and then streaming the footage online. McDermott also hopes to offer tablets that people can use for voice-activated language translation among other high-tech features.
“This really, really leverages our ability to deliver information to our patrons,” she said.
“I really want to thank the City Council and City Manager John Schaefer and also the state of California for allowing us to get this fast Internet connection. It’s really what we needed and it’s going to solve a lot of problems around here.”

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