So, after yesterday’s meeting, I sensed that there were quite a few people who wanted to know what other units were doing to deal with the problem of the public using scarce computer resources. Specifically, Suzzallo
came up as a place where people wondered how they managed their public workstations; did they make exceptions, were there lots of problems, how did they deal with patron requests and so on.
So, I asked. I talked to Adam Hall at Suzzallo, Christine Jew and Michael Milligan from OUGL, and Amanda Hornby from Bothell. You’ll be surprised to learn that they all said something different!
OUGL is using the digital registry. They do not make exceptions. They do not argue with patrons. If you need to access something outside of the filter, they will suggest that you use one of the 15 minute computers over in the HUB. Christine did say that if a patron has a “legitimate” research need they will tell them about the 1 hour computers over at the Law Library.
Adam Hall had a similar take on the situation. Suzzallo simply does not make exceptions and they refer people to the other two places if they say they need to view a specific resource just as OUGL does. There is another wrinkle here, that Suzzallo is in the habit of first asking the public if they have a laptop and if the patron does have a laptop, they tell them about the temporary NetID system. Also, Adam spoke for a few minutes about how they got to this decision and related that the decision to filter content was reached only after many, many deep (he called them “Religious Discussions”) discussions about the philosophy of librarians and what the mission of their library is. He also said that they made it explicit in their mission statement that the public are not who they serve. Finally, Adam also indicated that many of the larger branches use the filter now and that Foster, literally, switched two weeks ago.
So, then I called Amanda Hornby up at Bothell and asked her what they do. Turns out that their system is wide open. To the point that almost all of their 45 computers are open to the public. No time limits, no content filtering, no staff interference, and no handing out passwords. Their system, however is driven by the fact that the UW system and the Cascadia system are no longer compatible. So, in order to provide access to their Cascadia users they had to do this open system. That said, they did get users who would abuse the system and their solution was simple; roving reference. They go and talk to their patrons and she said that after you talk to someone two or three times, they kind of just leave… and they don’t come back.
So there you have it. Three different units, three different ways to handle the situation, three different reasons why they do what they do.