Public Librarians discussion

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Public computers.

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message 1: by Matt (new)

Matt | 8 comments I think public computers are an interesting movement to watch in public libraries. First of all, you get to see grown people act like babies. It serves a lot of people well, and most apphreciate the service. Then you have people who use it every day and abuse time limits and so on. Watching these people I wonder if computer use is an addiction of some kind. And these ones who abuse the time limits ruin it for other customer/patrons who need to use the computer.
I'm wondering how public libraries became the place to go for free internet service. It must of been an extension of services compared to library materials and programming. In general I'm glad that people can access computer through their libraries,but I have to admit monitering the public computers is not my favorite part of my career. I'm sure this goes on nation wide, what does everyone else in the group think of the public computer question?


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I work at a downtown public library and am currently in library school. The Internet/periodicals desk is the one that I primarily work and I must say that this is the most challenging and draining desk given the patrons' demands and unrealistic expectations. I hope that once I graduate with my MLIS that I can spend less time on this desk (I work 4-6 hours per day on this desk) because I fear that if I can’t get more time away from the public computers I will have to look for yet another profession.

I don’t know how other libraries’ patrons and managers handle the public computers but ours are hidden downstairs away from admin and the managers where only a handful of paraprofessional stuff bear the brunt of the workload and patron abuse. I have been threatened by patrons and there are physical fights somewhat regularly with constant bickering between patrons, etc. These same patrons do NOT act like this in other parts of the library and this is what I find so frustrating. Do other libraries deal with this sort of behavior and if so, how do you handle it?

In the past we have tried to suspend privileges but if the patron knows to complain to administration it is the staff that ends up getting their hands slapped and not the problem-causing patrons. I have personally experienced this and now have to deal (almost daily) with patrons who feel that they have one-up’ed me so now they can do practically anything they want in the computer lab and I would have to agree with them given administration’s response.



message 3: by Lucianna (new)

Lucianna (lucianna77) | 3 comments In my library people fight over the computers like they are gold. it is the source of most of the problems we have to deal with. sure it brings them into the library, but it creates more problems the library can handle.


message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (biblio_rach) | 5 comments Our public computers used to be a nightmare! We have 11 computers that serve an area of 30,000 people -- many of whom are out of work, don't speak English, or have limited computer skills. We were constantly overwhelmed with people upset about kids using computers for myspace when they have a job application to fill out or whatever. Our library system finally recognized that this was a huge stress on front-line staff and passed some pretty good guidelines. 1. Customers need a library card to use the computers (internet access is now treated like access to the rest of the collection) 2. Time limits are restricted to a total of 2 hours per day -- this is tracked with the library card number, and sessions are 30 min or 1 hr.
We also have security guards in our branches, so it hasn't been such a huge issue for staff getting into problems with angry customers.



message 5: by Tara (new)

Tara (ptero27) | 5 comments What bothers me most is when an adult comes up to the desk and complains that all the computers are being used by kids playing games and messing around on MySpace. From his point of view, he has "legitimate" work to do on the computer, apply for jobs, checking his email and messing around on Craigslist. I try to explain that the library respects all forms of information literacy and it is not our role to place value judgments on what folks do on the computer. That never goes well though and devolves into, "They got here first."


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa We get this a fair amount, too, espcially because we have a children's Internet area which most of the young people refuse to use but adults can not use any of the children's computers. Instead of responding to the complaint directly (because as you said this strategy does not help with the complainers' understanding) I use this as a platform to educate the public about some of the library's values, such as privacy. It is so hard not to just respond with, "Why are you looking at other people's computer screens? Would you want a stranger monitoring your usage?" but this would get us no where fast so I usually start off with, "Privacy is considered one of the central tenets of all libraries because..."


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Rachel,
This is an interesting way to handle the Internet. I know that the system I work for would never consider limiting access to library card holders because a majority of the regular Internet users can not meet the requirements for a library card. Do you have express Internet stations that visitors and those who do not qualify for a card can use?


message 8: by Jeff (new)

Jeff | 3 comments Last year we bought a computer management system called Cassie from the Librarica Corp. in Dallas. The stress levels evaporated immediately. You have to have a library card number to log on (some folks use other peoples cards, I used to get annoyed by it, but I'm over it, unless it's identity theft). The computer gives you one hour, and a message will tell the user you have five minutes left, you have one minute left, etc. No more arguing with the folks "but I'm in the middle of something" -- sorry, an hour is an hour. If you owe too much money in fines, it will block you from using the computers. Best of all, I can view what folks are looking at remotely. If I see someone viewing objectionable material (read: porn), I'll send them a message. 3 messages, they're blocked forever.

I'm not a shill for this company, it's just a product I wholeheartedly endorse.


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