1995: TN legislature creates the Northeast Tennessee Public Library (NETPL), to be operated and administered by the Watauga Regional Library (WRL) Board. The mission of the NETPL is to “provide legislative information and to develop and implement a communications network for the benefit of the citizens of the Watauga region.” (see text of bill below)
1995: Internet access: The first benefit from NETPL is an appropriation of $47,400 to buy computers and dial-up connections to the Internet for local libraries in the Watauga region. Since that date, an annual NETPL appropriation of $16,000 has paid for Internet access for these libraries.
1996-1997: Staff from WRL, ETSU, and the local libraries meet to plan for and select a shared library management system. WRL is chosen to serve as the coordinator of the management system for the public libraries. By pooling staff and financial resources, this allows the local libraries to “buy into” a superior system at a price much lower than would have been the case if they had done it separately. Local monies channeled to vendors through WRL.
1998: Wide area network: Staff of WRL upgrade the NETPL network with the installation of routers and T1 lines to each of the local libraries. The wide area network becomes the backbone of the NETPL network, providing improved Internet access to all libraries and potential connections to ETSU for a library management system. Funds for the upgrade come from WRL’s state budget and from the annual NETPL appropriation; also, funding makes use of the Federal E-rate discount. Annual cost for the wide area network is $70,000, maintenance and support included.
Spring, 1999: Library management system: Local libraries begin installation of ETSU’s Voyager system via the NETPL network. WRL staff perform critical coordination, setup, and support tasks.
Summer, 1999: WRL becomes an agency of the Tennessee Dept. of State and operates as an entity of the Tennessee State Library and Archives..
Summer, 1999: Library management system: Johnson City and Elizabethton libraries begin circulating with the Voyager library management system. Public now able to search the collections of both libraries either at the libraries or via the Internet.
Fall, 1999: Library management system: Johnson County begins circulating with Voyager. Collection available to public throughout the region.
Winter, 1999 - 2000: Library management system: Unicoi County and Washington County begin circulating with Voyager. Collections available to public throughout the region. Greene County prepares to circulate.
Spring, 2000: WRL board approves three-year technology plan to continue wide area network and library management system, and to expand these services by adding a courier service, which will use existing WRL staff to deliver, to all its local libraries, materials requested by patrons using the Impact ILL system or Voyager (service startup time depends on timing of vehicle replacement already approved by Dept. of State).