The new generation of telefacsimile equipment-digital machines which permit the transmission of a page of copy in less than a minute-has been the subject of two items in previous issues of LSN (Vol 1, No 2, pp. 10-11; and Vol 1, No 4, p 40). Viewed in library applications primarily as a rapid and economical method of document delivery in middle range to long distance interlibrary loan situations, digital facsimile is being harnessed in an innovative local application in the Denver Public Library
Concerned to maintain the level of reference service in branch libraries in the face of depleted staff resources, Denver Public has installed Rapicom 6300 digital telefacsimile equipment in the central library and Rapicom SOC's in seventeen of its branch libraries. The machines transmit a page of information in from 15 to 45 seconds. The network enables staff at the central site to rapidly deliver to the branches materials which meet reference inquiries placed at the branch libraries.
In providing the rapid delivery service, Denver Public supplies the first three pages of copy gratis and levies a fifty cent per page charge on subsequent pages of information. Since the system began operation earlier this year, a number of users have opted to pay the copy charge in preference to traveling downtown to consult the material free of charge.
That telefacsimile is undergoing a renaissance is evident from the sales figures-while there were only 255,000 machines installed in North America in 1980, 48,000 units were delivered in 1981. This growth can be expected to continue as the fifteen or so companies now in the market expand their product lines and are joined by new competitors.
The spread of this technology to libraries may be hampered by memories of the limited success of slower (4-6 minutes per page), older generation analog equipment of the 1960s. In assessing the appropriateness of digital telefacsimile in a particular library/library network situation considerations should include:
- establishing a time standard of no more than 60 seconds for the transmission of normal copy. A machine which operates at a slower speed will result in unacceptably high telecommunications charges.
- specifying digital telefacsimile equipment. Not all subminute telefacsimile equipment is digital. However, digital machines combine the advantages of rapid transmission with superior resolution capabilities. While such capabilities are not critical in the transmission of regular print pages, they are essential when complex charts and copies of older published material are being sent. The typeset letters in older materials are often quite close together and this, together with the discoloration and shrinkage in paper than occurs over time, can make an image transmitted on lower resolution analog equipment unreadable.
- specifying equipment which meets the Consultative Committee on International Telephone and Telegraph (CCITT) Group III standard. Adherence to this standard will usually ensure compatibility among the digital machines of different manufacturers. If a library wishes to ensure that its digital machine is also compatible with analog equipment, it should also specify downward compatibility to Group I and/or II machines.
- investigating the possibility of leasing/renting the equipment rather than purchasing it outright. The telefacsimile market is undergoing rapid change. Even though most of the digital machines have been introduced within the past three years, a fourth generation of equipment is under development. The new machines are expected to be capable of faster transmission with greater resolution than now available. The new generation machines will call for satellite, microwave or coaxial cable transmission. Standard development for such machines has not yet been completed.
There is also evidence that a number of photocopier manufacturers are experimenting with the introduction of copying machines with telefacsimile capability. The machines could be used for conventional copying when not in use for telefacsimile transmission.