How to Get Around Town While Standing in Place : Technology: User-friendly screens at Perkins Public Services Building are a preview of larger LNX electronic information system expected next year.
Do you have a parking ticket to pay? Looking for a city rebate for installing a water-conserving toilet?
Maybe you are seeking information on how to deal with the incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog.
The solutions can be found at the city’s new Gene Perkins Public Services Building in the Civic Center.
But once you get there, where do you go?
Two user-friendly computerized directories at entrances to the three-story building at 141 N. Glendale Ave. have the answers. Just touch the appropriate category on the monitor screen and, Eureka!, a mini-movie will appear to show you where to go and how to get there, complete with the image of an elevator ascending, for example, to the third floor (the elevator bell rings on arrival).
If you don’t have a microchip for a brain, a friendly female voice and the screen will repeat instructions as many times as it takes for you to absorb the information.
It is the first step in the city’s new computer system, called LNX (pronounced LINKS), unveiled Tuesday. Eventually, users will be able to access all kinds of local information just by using a terminal at a city library or other public building, or even from a kiosk on Brand Boulevard or a home or office computer.
The service launched this week is just a preview--sort of a glorified electronic directory of who’s who and what’s where at the Civic Center.
But don’t try to find the mayor or city manager just yet; they are not in the system. That will come later this year as the city installs more terminals at other city buildings and libraries.
The directories are as easy to use as a television. There is no keyboard with banks of commands. Instead, colorful, animated choices with spinning question marks pop onto the screen, leading users step by step in their quest for the proper person or department. The viewer “flies through” the building by watching a video guide that shows hallways, windows and doors along the route.
The program not only is simple--even for the computer illiterate--it’s also fun. Initial users this week could be seen lingering at the directories, challenging them with a variety of questions to learn the scope of information available.
The directories are only a glimpse of the capabilities of the LNX system, which will be activated after the first of the year, officials say.
Developed by the Glendale Library specifically for the city, the local electronic information system is considered technologically advanced beyond any other developed so far in the nation, said Ruth Thompson, the LNX systems administrator who has spearheaded the project for the past five years.
“It is the most complete project of its kind,” Thompson said. “It is more than the cutting edge, not only in technology, but in integrating all of the multimedia features” of sound, animation, graphics, even video.
While many cities, including Pasadena and Santa Monica, have developed so-called “City Hall in the Mall” electronic information bulletin boards, Glendale’s is the first that will offer on-line, up-to-date, interactive services combined with advanced graphics capabilities, Thompson said.
She said more than 50 cities, counties and universities throughout the country have expressed interest in purchasing the system from Glendale once licensing is completed next year.
“Ours is unique in that it is on-line,” Thompson said. “If a community group changes presidents and meeting days, they can update that record instantly,” she said. The extent of graphics display and video capability also far exceed any other system in use.
Initial operation of the LNX system will begin after the first of the year. Anyone with access to a computer with a modem for telephone hookup will be able to use the system. Information will feature an “electronic yellow pages” listing all businesses and services in Glendale, including maps to find, for example, the nearest shoe store.
There will be a complete calendar of local events, movies playing, job openings, and municipal updates on such routine happenings as street repairs and changes in trash collection dates. Agendas for the City Council and other boards and commissions will be posted.
Electronic mail will be available to everyone, allowing credit card purchases from businesses or transactions with the city by computer, even messages to neighbors or comments on the doings at City Hall.
Say it is 3 a.m., you can’t sleep and notice that the street light is out in front of your house.
Just switch on your home computer, message the city, and they will get your complaint the next working day--and will let you know personally when the problem will be corrected. Or register for classes at Glendale College without leaving your home. Check the catalogue at the library, order a pizza, make dinner and theater reservations for Saturday night.
It’s all part of what Thompson calls the coming of “electronic democracy.” She said the idea is to allow people to take care of their daily needs without leaving home or office. The result will be a decrease in traffic congestion, air pollution, greater efficiency and a more informed public.
“It will allow people another time frame to deal with the everyday things we are all dealing with now,” said Laurel Patric, Glendale director of libraries.
Best of all, it will be free to users. The library late this year expects to make computer software for use in any machine available without charge to the public.
“Our job is to deliver information in whatever form possible,” said Thompson, who credits city leaders as being among the most progressive in the nation in endorsing the concept of the public’s right to know and to participate.
“It is very critical for people today to feel they can affect action, make their opinions known, reach government in this city. That is very important to the officials here,” Thompson said. “People are busy and have very little spare time these days. We’re making it easier for them to conduct their business.”
Glendale so far has spent about $350,000 developing the LNX system and could spend another $150,000 as future phases are implemented over the next few years, Patric said. However, much of those costs are expected to be recovered with the sale of the specially developed software system to other governments and institutions. Other income is expected to be derived from the sale of advertising in the “yellow pages,” for example, to local businesses.
About 20 city departments are involved in entering information into the system, which is designed to work in conjunction with other technical computer systems used by the planning department, city clerk, personnel and a variety of other departments.
“This will be a big boon to the citizens of Glendale,” Thompson said. “We intend to bring information into every house, every business, every office in the city.”
With that kind of talk, the electronic directories at the Perkins Building--with their beeps and bongs and video graphics--pale in comparison.