The Kodiak public library has seen an astounding increase in Internet usage since it began offering wireless Internet in addition to desktop access for patrons earlier this year.

Library director Joe D’Elia reported to the members of the Kodiak Public Library Association Tuesday that more than 3,000 people have accessed the wireless network since the program began in March, and use has been high all summer.

“The wireless network is just exploding at this time of year,” D’Elia said. “We just get overloaded sometimes.”

While the current network can handle 20 people at a time, when the library gets busy there are times when more than 20 people want access — as happened the day of the library association meeting.

At these times, a rationing system goes into effect. Each patron gets an hour of Internet time that can be renewed. But if there are no available spots, they may have to wait for an opening.

The desktop computers with Internet access are also constantly in use, with waiting lists for access, as well.

“It’s just incredible demand,” D’Elia said.

A few weeks ago, the city of Kodiak IT department installed a repeater to boost the wireless signal so it covers the whole library without any dead spots, D’Elia said. This was to address the issue of patrons heading to all corners of the library to find electrical outlets to plug in their laptops and access the Internet.

The news caught the attention of the library association, which is working to build a new library for the community.

Association chairwoman Erin Harrington said the

Internet use statistics will be useful in designing the new library.

“We had some assumptions when we were doing the building design about wireless and the number of computers, and we’ll really have to test those against the data that you’re developing and make sure we got it right,” Harrington said.

Board member Paul Converse said the association thought the wireless might reduce the demand on the desktops.

“But it’s a different population, he said.

D’Elia said the desktop computers are most often used by those working at the canneries who don’t own a laptop or smartphone.

“But people coming in on the cruse ships tend to have their own laptops,” he said. “I think a lot of community members are coming in with laptops who don’t have Internet subscriptions at home.”

In addition to the increase in Internet traffic, a program called ListenAlaska, where patrons can check out digital audiobooks, e-books and music, is also seeing more use.

When the program began in January, there were just over 50 items checked out digitally.

“Now it’s averaging, I would say, anywhere from 200 to 250 checkouts a month,” D’Elia said. “And I think more people are becoming aware of it.”

So far, 1,600 Kodiak public library patron downloads have been logged at the ListenAlaska website.

“It’s the same as borrowing our physical materials,” D’Elia said. “It has a built-in loan period and basically disappears off your computer.

“You just have to download software to your computer and then you can borrow the materials,” he said. “In turn, you can just leave it on your computer or you can put it on a mobile device like a mp3 player or an iPod or a Kindle or a Sony E-reader — anything.”

Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at whan

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