So, where are we now and how does this all affect you? I wish I knew! Though the Library's new web server is up and running, a mail server has yet to be set up and, other than a skeleton of a sign in module, no code has been written. As I'm new to virtually all of the software side of the system it is reasonable to question my ability to have everything in place by the first of October deadline. However, the Tierranet account is paid up through the first of November and there's no reason why, with a few modifications, it couldn't continue to be used for submitting tape dubbing requests until the account expires. Worst case, there are the East Coast (http://220.127.116.11/dylan/freelib.html) and the West Coast (http://18.104.22.168/dylan/freelib.html) mirror sites to fall back on, indefinitely. Bookmark or make a note of them!
On the positive side, if I manage to pull this off, Library Patrons can expect a much less cumbersome interface that processes requests and queries in real time. The need to submit a request by E-Mail be obviated, as requests will be submitted on line with the click of a mouse. This will eliminate entirely the problems associated with E-Mail clients that insist on including embedded HTML or "Rich Text," making the E-Mailed requests unreadable on this end. That alone should save your Librarian a couple of hours a week. Library Patrons will have the option of displaying the Authorization on screen and printing it locally, a real boon for those Patrons without internet access that rely on computers hosted by library's, schools, and such. The real advantage to "The Solution" is, of course, the freedom to expand and develop the system as we see fit, without being hostage to the whim of a web hosting service. The fact that the operating system and all of the software chosen are free is the frosting on the cake. Though the road may be a tad bumpy at times, the one thing you can count on is that your properly submitted requests will continue to be serviced in a timely fashion. On that you have my word!
The Library now boasts over 6000 Patrons. Of late, available dubbing gear barely keeps up with the demand for Library Dubbing Services. Energy costs have spiraled and the overall expense of running the Library is starting to become a real strain. Even postage costs (postage due on incoming parcels and outgoing parcels returned for additional postage, for the most part) have soared. Over the last five years, keeping the Library up and running has, bit by bit, exhausted our rather modest personal savings (intended to be used as a down payment on a house this year). We've adopted a number of cost saving measures in an effort to hold on. Two phone lines have been disconnected and and we now maintain but a single, stripped down line. As a consequence, you now get a busy signal (no call waiting) if the remaining line is being used. On the energy front, the only long term solution appears to be aggressive conservation. Toward that end, power strips have been plugged into every receptacle that serve devices that support remote controls or sport LED displays. Did you know such devices consume as much as ten percent of their normal operating power when turned off but plugged in? The power strips are switched on only when we want to use a device. We have also given up air conditioning this summer and have opted to dry our laundry on a retractable clothes line in the back yard rather than use the dryer (Try it. You'll like it!). Though perhaps an inconvenience, none of the above have proven to be a real hardship. I suppose, thus far, the only real sacrifice we've made has been giving up Lynne's favorite pastime, dinners out.
Though a raffle has been under way since the end of March, my expectations on that front would be best described as modest. Thus far participation has been lackluster, with fewer than sixty Patrons participating. That, combined with tally from the last raffle (Only 2% or 113 of the 5487 eligible patrons participated), does not leave a great deal of room for unbounded optimism. Though I'll likely go to my grave before I give up on the Library, it's beginning to appear that, unless Lynne wins the Lotto (California's lottery), a short term cutback of, rather than the implementation of additional, Library Services may well become necessary if the Library is to stay afloat. Should that come to pass, those that enjoy privileged (CLP, BLP, SLP, & etc.) status by dint of participation in the current or previous raffles may rest assured that they will be unaffected by any such cutbacks.
Speaking of the raffle, Martin Golan, poet, journalist, Library Patron, and now novelist, has donated several signed copies of his first novel, "My Wife's Last Lover," as raffle prizes. I've just added one to the current raffle. Click here to check it out. Martin's sly wit, though politically incorrect at times, probes the underbelly of connubial relationships with such authority, I'm convinced that this is, at least in part, autobiographical, in spite of the disclaimer on the copyright page. As you might suspect, the novel is replete with Dylan references.
The following paragraph is a rerun from previous "Open Letters." If you've read it before, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. As always, the expeditious servicing of Patron requests comes first. If properly submitted, it is reasonable to expect your dubbed tape to be on the way back to you within a couple of days of receipt if but a single tape is involved. The dubbing of two or more tapes will likely take a day or two longer. I make absolutely no promises on turnaround time for tapes that are not properly submitted. If you want to inquire about the status of your request, telephone. Do not E-mail! Your Librarian's arthritic fingers are limited in the number of keys they can strike in a day. In fact, consider using the telephone, instead of E-mail, for anything that requires a personal response, particularly if a timely response is sought. The bottom line is that there are over 6000 of you and only one of me. Let's use my time and energy doing what's most important to you - spinning tapes and implementing "The Solution!"
In closing, I'd like to express my appreciation, and gratitude to those of you that participated in the last and previous raffles. Without your generous support this experiment would have long ago failed. We are all in your debt. For those of you that have yet to participate, please give it your considered attention. Perhaps together we can turn the year around and make 2001 the Library's "annus mirabilis."
As always, your comments, criticisms, or suggestions are always welcome.
Until the next time, Take Care!
Win What's Never Been Won - The 7th Time
The Unofficial Bob Dylan Free Tape Library Home Page