Serving the needs of all patrons

I think that everyone would agree that libraries are here to serve all their patrons. Over the past few weeks, my library has seen an unusual increase in the number of public patrons who come to use the internet on our public workstations. Now that second semester is in full swing, there have been moments when there are not workstations for students who came to the library to do research. The problem was identified by all of our staff members and we set out to discuss what actions should be taken during several staff meetings. I felt that this was one policy discussion that library school prepared me well to debate. When in graduate school, we talked about the pros and cons of similar situations and possible actions and repercussions. I applied the same discussions I had with other students in classes to our staff meetings. Since we are a federal depository library, and therefore open to the public for use of government information, we did not to ask public patrons to refrain from visiting, but have asked them to use the library’s computers for research purposes during high traffic times of student use. So far, the action has worked and we have struck a balance between the two groups needs. Public patrons who came to game or surf the internet are willing to transfer to another computer so students can use the ones located near the reference desk. I know that similar situations happen in libraries all over. I am curious to see how others libraries have acted in like situations; please feel free to share your comments.

2 thoughts on “Serving the needs of all patrons

  1. The big answer to this problem in my mind is to collaborate with the public libraries in your area to beef up their online resources and capacity.

    This has only been a problem for us at SUNY Oswego when the city public library closed for a week or two to move to temporary quarters during a major renovation of their building. With the help of some of our staff, the renovated building will have top notch capacity for online technology.

    We have only two machines for community users to browse the web. When there are problems, we quietly limit use to an hour.

  2. A similar thing happened at one of Boston’s university libraries. Particularly after school and in the evenings, people in the community would come in and use the public computer terminals for a variety of things, from research to resume work to instant messaging to pornography.

    Obviously removing the people who look at porn and discouraging other recreational uses, the situation only really posed a problem during particularly busy times of the academic year, usually right before midterms and finals.

    As a temporary measure when this occured, we would politely ask the recreational users to give up the computer when it was clear that students were desparately milling about the terminals with nowhere to go. Far from a quality solution, it was effective in the short-term.

    Ultimately, the number of terminals in the reference area was increased and many of them needed a university login to use, thereby creating a pool of computers that were only available for the core constituency. Another important change was pay-for-copying. This cut down on the public demand of the terminals, as many were using them as if they were home machines, without limiting the promised internet access to the public.

    I don’t know exactly how well the changes worked because I no longer work there, but I have visited a number of times and it appears as though the changes were very successful. I think it keeps a very good balance between serving the needs of the university while also being hospitable to the surrounding neighborhood.

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