long term projects

I have a couple of long term projects. One I think is sort of funny... wireless for the library. Why is this funny? Well, half the people that come in the library to use the computers have no idea how to use them. How would they benefit from wireless? And people with laptops... they might like wireless internet, but still insist on plugging in their laptop's power cord, which is against policy.

The second long term project is time access management software.

I had a request to disable the "log off" function on the public access terminals. This leads to the, er, obvious problems. We do need to be able to log off. And we do need to be able to shutdown (and I'd rather have a librarian logging in every half hour than a patron turning the computers on and off, and still needing a librarian to log in anyway). I could enable ctrl-alt-delete on those boxes again, but I don't want every schmuch ctrl-alt-deleting when our network is slow.

The network, my nemesis. I still don't understand, exactly, how the network at the library works. We're networked to a T1 line. Evidently we are behind a firewall that Boston uses. Windows is our responsibility. But I'm thinking we must have a server machine somewhere, although my predecessor says we don't. So where is our filtering software? Also in Boston, because it has to operate in front of the firewall. I think I need to talk to someone and get the low down on exactly how this whole thing knits together, before I start even pondering too deeply the ramifications, good and bad, of time managment software.

We simply can't afford a kiosk or another computer to manage internet reservations, and even if I could somehow rig the print server to act as as server for this as well (I'm not entirely convinced I can't), I don't relish the idea of having the librarians and support staff have to log on to the server to make appointments. The key here is to save time. And a self-service station requires more hardware. If any new hardware comes in, well, it's going to the staff. Or the unfiltered terminal, which is pre-1997.

Client only should work, even though it won't entirely eliminate our handy dandy sign up sheet entirely. Try finding variety in client only systems. And I would like it to work with Horizon, without having to be tweaked in Boston. And I would like it to work on Macs. Tall order. If you know of anything, please, please drop me a line.

My wish list for wireless? Yeah. Well, I'll get to that, when I'm entirely convinced it's a good idea. The assistant director suggested it, and I'm not sure he's entirely convinced it's a good idea either. I would rather be a late adopter and get it right, at least on this, methinks.

Comments

Wireless in the library

I think wireless in the library is a wonderful solution to the patron battles you described on Friday. And I can't imagine why you would not want people to plug in--other libraries--even coffee shops allow that.

The laptop patron frees up your terminals. They may be using wp along with the wireless, so why not be able to conserve battery power by using an outlet?

Am I missing an important principle here or just another case of library rules run amok?

Plugging in your laptop

Actually, this is a policy I can get behind. The building was designed and built pre-laptop explosion. The way our outlets are positioned, the only way to plug in a laptop safely would be to push all the tables up against the stacks, not allowing for any sort of easy book browsing.

As is, we have problems with the cords of laptops running about knee height when they're plugged in at our reading areas. We've had a few trips and falls, fortunately nothing serious... But the damage to limbs and laptops is something to consider.

An interesting aside: where our computers are, once again, was designed really before computers were widespread in libraries. We had at one point, daisy chained surge protectors (I was mortified) to make it so that we could actually spread our computers out some. I took care of that little situation.

Also, though a lesser concern than safety, we are under a really rough budget situation. We turn off the lights when leaving our offices for more than five minutes, literally, just to save pennies. Having a laptop or four or five suck off our resources for as long as some people stay at the internet terminals could start to add up. We want to keep things as free and available as possible, but with the internet cafe down the street... I have to say our concern is more keeping books and dvds and museum passes free.

Ideally, I'd like to redesign parts of our new building. Obviously, if we do wireless, these will be issues that have to be addressed. And there will be some electrical redesigning, anyway. But with the Massachusetts budget being what it is, I'm not sure how good an idea wireless is at this time.

Perhaps I am sounding too down on it, but there are things I am worried about concerning wireless, in terms privacy and such. I really do think it would be cool to connect with my pocket PC in the library. But there are so many other issues going on with computers in the library, that, at least for a few months, this will definitely be given the backseat.

Bill and Melinda Gates, if you're reading this... I sure could use some hardware. Our print server is running Windows Server 2003! We're good Microsoft customers!

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