Friday, May 8, 2009

Public Workstation Sanity

Friday 8:30 AM
Public Workstation Sanity: Approaches to Managing Time and Patrons at Public Workstations
Panel: Jim Keenan, Bernadette, Ira

There will be a link to many resources posted on the Billerica Library Website on Monday (including contact information for panel members)!

Jim began by providing us with an overview of the issues and public workstation environment. He also mentioned that the panel is not advocating for any particular solution, but presenting a variety of solutions that may or may not work for your institution. Each community/institution has different needs.

3 Management Areas: Time, Print & Computer

Who can use the public workstations? How long can they use them? How can the library exert control during patron sessions.

Time Management Solutions: PC Reservation (Envisionware), Pharos, Patron Access Management Xerox, CASSIE, Librarica, CybraryN, Time Limit Mngr. (Open Source).

Print Management Solutions: Managing printers, print jobs, payment. Additional printing issues include coin machines and contract services.

Computer Management Solutions: Who can do what with the machines and when (can they download clients, change computer settings, etc...)? Different settings for patrons, administrators, automatic system processes.

CM Solutions - Products: SteadyState, Microsoft; DeepFreeze; Clean Slate, Fortres; Windows Policy Editor; CompuGard, Centurion; Fortres 101, Fortres; Trust-No-Exe, Beyond Logic; Userful.

Issues Mentioned:
How do we protect our computers and users (IE will save usernames/passwords for the remainder of the day when set to remember them for 0 days - Firefox has a setting that will not remember them)?

Integrating your systems: Getting everything to play nice (can't update anti-virus software at night if computers shut down). New version of Office (07) with file formats that are not backward compatible, and there are some combinations of software that do not work together (Roxio and DeepFreeze).

Pros & Cons of Open Source: It's free, tech expertise requirements, potential lack of support, possible additional system requirements (Linux instead of MS Windows).

Issues in Software Deployment: Do I have the expertise to install myself or will I need to pay for technical expertise? How much dedicated staff time? Consultants needed? Are there extra initial costs for setup?

Ira began by discussing... her experience and the evolution of computer management.

Her library took the technical experience of the library staff into account when selecting a CM Solution. Decided upon Userful and went from 5 computers in the library to 15 computers in the Reference and YA areas alone!

The Time Management has been great. They are using thin clients (5 PCs to a server), and the Linux operating system (required for Userful) and Open Office software are used on the computers.

Use notification of print costs to patrons to decrease the amount of lost fees (not using a Print Management system yet). Send messages to patrons when necessary (can send a message to teens that are being loud during busy times). Login to a webpage in the morning to manage the computers (it will show you if a computer has been dropped from the network and needs attention, usually caused by a loose cable or a similarly simple problem).

The library is allowing users to have an hour on the computers (staff can add time/decrease time as necessary). They use guest passes for people that are visiting (change the numbers periodically to avoid abuse). Some annoyance from the technically savvy people that are forced to use OpenOffice, but you can save in MS formats and OpenOffice has been accepted well by most people.

All computers can access the library catalog without the use of a library card. Computers turn on early and the anti-virus software updates automatically.

Userful trainer came and installed the system (headquartered in Alberta, Canada) and provided 2 days of training (it cost approx. $2,100), they have 4-5 servers and approx 31 public computers at a cost from Userful of approx. $33,000 for 3 years.

Problems: floppy disks not available on thin clients (purchased a USB connection-Floppy Drive to alleviate issue), Teens cannot access iTunes to download music, their older library has electrical infrastructure issues.

At Bernadette's library... she was asked to figure out how to install a print management system (OCS - Output Control Services) that had already been purchased by a library. There turned out to be issues with the system requirements not being met by some computers on their network.

Bernadette's library then installed PC Reservation on top of the print management system. Patrons were allowed to use the computers for 1-1.5 hours a day (twice per day), and the staff provided extra time to people for valid reason (completing tests, etc...).

Some nice features include being able to send messages to patrons via the system (people congregating around a computer and being loud) and PC Reservation shuts computers down at the end of the day automatically. Jim's library, Billerica, also uses PC Reservation for time management.

PC Reservation can be set to reboot after each session (this will delete usernames/passwords and help to protect patron privacy), but beware how old your machines are and how long they take to reboot.

Group Policy Editor is being used at Bernadette's library for security. Public Web Browser is another product that is similar to using the Group Policy Editor.

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