From the Vineyard Gazette edition of Jan. 25, 1985:
The computer age has come to the Edgartown Free Public Library.
Actually, it arrived quietly in the last weeks of 1984. Head librarian Linda Norton explains:
“A number of people expressed interest when we first got the system and we told them, ‘As soon as we learn how to use it, we’ll teach you how to use it.’”
But now, as the hackers say, the system is up, and computer-phobes and buffs alike are welcome to sit down at the first free and public terminal on Martha’s Vineyard.
The library has two machines, both built by the Apple company, acquired with about $3,000 in donations from the Friends of the Edgartown Public Library and a generous anonymous patron. An Apple IIc computer sits on a table with its video monitor and a printer in the main reading room, for use by anybody who wants to sign up. At the main desk sits a larger Apple IIe, also with a monitor and printer, for use by the library staff.
Mrs. Norton says all the librarians have been given training sessions by Ed Kopec of Edgartown, consultant and computer science teacher at the regional high school. And assistant librarian Lorraine Felt even took a computer science class from Pat Gregory of West Tisbury through the Nathan Mayhew Seminars. Says Mrs. Norton, “When we get stuck now, we tend to call Lorraine. If it is a matter of which buttons to press now, she usually knows, or at least can figure it out faster than we can.”
In a matter of only weeks, the librarians have conquered computer phobia. They have mastered neither the machines nor the jargon that surrounds them, but they have found the secret of the learning attitude, and they are both confident and enthusiastic about these new additions to the library.
Ask Mrs. Norton a technical question about Apple machines, and she’s apt to reply as she does in explaining the different memory capacity of the two microcomputers. “The little one has 128K memory,” she says. “The other one is 128K, too, but it has an extra thing stuck inside it.”
Mrs. Norton knows she needn’t understand its innards to run the Apple. “It’s just a glorified typewriter,” she says. “It’s just a tool, not something to be afraid of. It’s something you have to learn to use, like everything new.”
Mrs. Felt agrees. Learning to use the computer she says, is “a matter of relaxing. I think the older people are going to have to learn that they can’t break it — that it’s pretty friendly, and there’s not much damage they can do.”
Children’s librarian Deborah MacInnis says Mr. Kopec advised her to familiarize herself with the Apple system by working with a word-processing program called PFS Write. She says she went through the instructional exercises — “and a fair amount of swearing, I grant you” — and then decided on a writing project.
“You know the annual Christmas letter that you write to 75 people? I wrote it on the machine.
“I wrote one letter, and then went back to change the Dear So-and-So. Then I went back and deleted and added paragraphs.
“It was a snap! It’s the first time I’ve had my cards sent out before Christmas in 20 years. And I had never touched a computer before I wrote those letters.”
Mrs. MacInnis is excited about the new machines. “I’ll tell you,” she says, “I can see now how they’re addictive. It’s like doing a puzzle. I can see why the hackers stay up for three days in a row.”
The library has purchased a beginning package of software which includes something for both children and adults. There are programs for word processing, database management, graphics and bookkeeping. There are educational programs to teach math and typing for children. And there are games, including a stock market simulation entitled Millionaire, a chess program Sargon II and something for the kids called Zork.
So far, says Mrs. Felt, “It’s been basically the young people, who have been exposed to them in the school system, who have been more excited about the computer. But all the librarians say they hope the kids will lure their parents to the terminal and help them make peace with the machine.”
One of these young computer wizards is Chris Waller, 14, a freshman at the regional high school. He says he has an Atari system at home which he uses for everything from homework to games to keeping track of how much money he makes shucking scallops for Bobby Gilkes.
The staff at the Edgartown library sees the new computers as a resource in search of applications. But this is only the beginning, Mrs. Norton points out.
“We’re mostly waiting to see what happens,” she says. “What I hope will happen is that adults who are curious will come in and play with it. We’re still all very new at this, but I think everyone’s excited about it.”
And Mrs. Norton is already thinking about new ways to use the Apples for her own work. “If we’d gotten this a little earlier,” she says, “I could have used this to help me prepare our budget — instead of 47 little pieces of paper.”
Compiled by Hilary Wall