Tulsa City-County Library Leverages Technology to Promote Learning and Strengthen Communities

Tulsa City-County Library buildingTulsa City-County Library is leveraging technology to promote learning, create connections and strengthen communities. The library system serves Tulsa County through 24 locations from Collinsville to Bixby. To better serve its communities, TCCL has revamped its traditional services, removed barriers and made its libraries more convenient.

“Providing access to information, space and technologies offers every member of our community the opportunity to reach for and fulfill their dreams. With the variety, convenience and quality of resources and services TCCL offers, our customers are able to dream bigger than ever before,” said Kimberly Johnson, CEO.

TCCL is a nationally recognized library system. It received a five-star rating in Library Journal’s America’s Star Libraries ratings. Five stars is the highest rating a library can receive.

“Being recognized as one of the top libraries in the nation is certainly a community award for TCCL staff and all of the Tulsa County readers who use library resources,” said Johnson.

Community Services

Young customers using computers at Tulsa City-County LibraryTCCL’s community outreach made a big difference during the COVID-19 pandemic. The library system registered as a community partner with the Affordable Connectivity Program. TCCL utilized ACP’s informational materials to promote funding for home internet. As a result, Tulsa County has over 75,000 households registered for reduced cost home internet.

During the pandemic, TCCL also offered hotspots to students for virtual learning and online homework. The system’s libraries offered curbside pickup, printing services, 3-D printing and take-home activity kits for all ages. TCCL’s libraries also offer free audiobooks, free tutoring through Homework HelpNow and free meeting space.

These services produced impressive usage statistics. In 2022, circulation was 7,317,789, with over 3 million visits and over 4,700 daily physical visits. TCCL also provided 567,083 Wi-Fi sessions and 222,852 computer sessions. Parking lot Wi-Fi usage totaled 171,567.

Another program that assists Tulsa County residents is the new telehealth booth at Central Library. The booth facilitates remote appointments between customers and physicians. The booth has hosted 24 appointments in the last year.

Central Library telehealth kiosk“Telehealth at TCCL is ideal for individuals who need access to medical care but may lack a private setting to conduct their appointments,” Buddy Ingalls, TCCL Central Library manager, said. “While primarily focused on healthcare, the space can also be used for other services.  Examples include students who may need access to remote testing, appointments with interpreters or job interviews.”

New Technologies

TCCL plans to implement exciting new technology this year. The first project will pilot a new data dashboard at a few locations. The dashboards will provide daily and yearly metrics at each library.

“Customers can check out items and then watch the data dashboards update to reflect their checkouts! It shows usage for checked out items, most checked out type of items computer logins, and traffic for that particular library and for the system as a whole,” Rebekah Cowan, TCCL chief technology officer, said. “This is a great way to show what’s happening at your branch library and what’s happening throughout the community.”

TCCL’s technology department is also exploring ways to utilize AI. An AI chatbot will help customers find website information more quickly and more easily connect with library staff. AI may also be able to help customers find book recommendations.

“AI has so much potential. We are researching ways we can use it to provide better support to our customers,” Cowan said.

High-Speed Connectivity

Teenage customers using computers at Tulsa City-County LibraryHigh-speed connectivity will help make these new projects possible and is key for providing TCCL’s communities with computers, laptops and inside/outside wireless access.

“Being able to provide high-speed internet at our libraries allows us to provide digital equity to all customers in our communities.  We know there are households that have no internet access in Tulsa County,” Cowan said. “We are a place for all to come and fulfill their internet needs whether it’s for homework, research, starting a business, applying for a job, getting medical information, or simply placing an online grocery order.”

OneNet serves all 24 TCCL libraries. TCCL first connected to OneNet in 1997 with a T1 circuit. TCCL has upgraded over time and now has a OneNet 2G fiber connection at its main library and a secondary 2G circuit at another library location. Cowan said TCCL chooses OneNet for several reasons.

“OneNet has always provided us with a stable and fast internet connection. Their support team has always been responsive and helpful anytime we’ve needed them,” Cowan said. “They also take good care of their network and invest in infrastructure upgrades to make sure they can provide us more bandwidth if needed.”

Cost Savings

Central Library research centerOneNet services provide cost savings for TCCL as well.

“We were able to save thousands of dollars by moving our Umbrella internet filtering software subscription to OneNet. It was a smooth process to transition, and it freed up money in my budget to put towards other services,” Cowan said.

“OneNet is proud to have served TCCL for over 25 years,” said John Hennessey, associate vice chancellor for Information Technology and OneNet. “Public libraries are essential to our state’s citizens, and we appreciate the role they play every day in providing critical community services.”

Cowan appreciates the support TCCL receives from OneNet’s team as well.

“The staff are wonderful! From getting quotes for services and signing contracts to implementation and support, they are always knowledgeable and helpful. They make the process easy,” Cowan said.

Images courtesy of Tulsa City-County Library

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