HANCEVILLE. Hanceville's library is growing again, but this time, it's in
the virtual world.

The Cullman County Public Library System (CCPLS) and the Hanceville Public
Library has installed equipment to provide high-speed radio frequency
wireless access to the Internet at the Hanceville Library. "Radio Free
Hanceville" was turned on last week for visitors to the Hanceville Library.

Library users with the proper equipment on their laptop computers and PDAs
can access high speed Internet while sitting anywhere inside or around the
Hanceville Library without having to be hard-wired into the library's

"We're proud to bring Hanceville online. By taking the lead in the state in
terms of library technology, CCPLS provides the very best in service to our
communities and our users." Said John Paul Myrick, County Librarian. "With a
small library like Hanceville, with a limited number of computer terminals,
this will allow more people to access high speed service quickly."

In addition to surfing the Internet, users can utilize the connections to
search the library's catalog, and databases provided by the Alabama Virtual
Library and the library system. Persons in the Hanceville, Garden City,
Welti and Colony areas with slow dial-up connections at home can come to the
library to complete down loads which require large bandwidth. Students in
the Hanceville area can access "HomeworkAlabama.org" through the service to
quickly obtain tutoring help after school.

Another way this service might be used is by a traveling businessperson
needing Internet access, but also needing to compare data between the
Internet and that stored on his computer. Such interfacing is currently not
possible with the library's computer systems, but can be accomplished with
" Radio Free Cullman" and "Radio Free Hanceville."

The county's six-branch library system was the second public library and the
third library of any type in the state to offer this service when it began
last year at the Cullman branch. Only the Orange Beach Public Library and
Auburn University Library, according to the "Wired Librarian" website beat
Cullman to the punch. According to the website and data from the Public
Library Association, CCPLS was the 74th public library in the country to do
so, out of roughly 8,981.

"This addition helps us to remove the walls and doors of our libraries, and
more and more persons, both local residents and visitors, can get the
information they need quickly. We want residents of the county to be able to
expect the same level of quality information services at any library
location," Myrick said "and this addition helps us meet that goal of service

Persons wishing to tie their laptops or PDAs into the service at the library
will have to have a certain type of laptop or other device that conforms to
standard 802.11b, commonly known as Wi-Fi. Most new laptops and PDAs come
wireless capable already. Older laptops with a PCMCIA slot or USB port can
be adapted with an external network interface card (NIC) for about $80 or

The technology to provide such services has become affordable to CCPLS in
recent years, but only with the addition of high speed Internet at
Hanceville this past spring was the Library System able to expand the
service beyond Cullman. Costs for the service were covered by funding
provided by the Public Library Board of Cullman County and the City of
Hanceville Library Board. The equipment was installed by Ken Walling of the
County Commission's Information Technology Department

Library officials expect to install the technology at the Fairview branch
(to be called "Radio Free Fairview") by mid January. Other CCPLS branches
will be added as high-speed Internet access is available in their
communities and as funding allows. "Our goal is to be the first public
library system in the state to offer Wi-Fi in all of its locations." said
Myrick, "All we're waiting on is for the phone company to catch up with us."

What's next for the CCPLS? "We're looking at a new possibility called
Wi-Max." said Myrick. "Wi-Max would enable us to provide high speed access
over a larger area. Implementing such a service in downtown Cullman or
downtown Hanceville could serve as a tool to bring residents and visitors
downtown, stimulating community and economic development. If we can figure
out a way to pay for it and maintain it then it may be the next avenue we
take. Many cities are providing wireless services for their residents, and
the libraries of the county are always looking for ways to get information
to the end user quickly."