The ever-useful thumb

While I was talking to Amanda Taylor, Head Librarian of Concordia Parish, Louisiana, she mentioned a clever way of using keychain drives for her PAC network.

Keychain drives, also known as jump drives & thumb drives and USB Flash Drives - are a rapidly developing technology with excellent potential to be of use to libraries in a number of ways. Cheap and small, with excellent storage capacity, many libraries have used them to replace floppy drives and cd-roms as storage devices for their patrons. Some libraries even offer to sell patrons a small drive if they need their own. Because they have no moving parts they are more durable than most alternatives - both in the media and the drive, which can reduce wear and tear on your systems. Since patrons can keep all of their user information, working documents, configuration files - and even the applications themselves - on the drive, you can lock out more patron access to writing information to the computer itself, preventing many hazards from developing

Ms. Taylor, however, took that one step further and is using them to help maintain and repair her systems. She has a standard set of software she installs on computers, and can keep a current copy of them on one to aid in updating systems, or reinstalling software (or a complete OS) in the event of a crash.

This avoids some of the problems with using CDs for the same purpose:

  • Flash drives can hold more than data (though less than a DVD)
  • Easily re-writable to keep up with changing software
  • CR-rom drives can become error-prone with extended use

While usage of a flash drive is fairly straightforward, they are still unfamiliar to many people. You may find this library's step by step guide to using flash drives for their Dell workstations useful. While your systems may have their ports in a different location, this remains an example of a very clear tutorial you may wish to take as a starting point in developing your own user guides.