Learn from the experiences of others! Download or visit our FREE Cookbooks, packed with tips and techniques on maintaining public computers. Each Cookbook has valuable and practical information collected from hundreds of public libraries throughout the U.S. and Canada. From troubleshooting to setting up wireless networks or solving many technology issues, all these great ideas are captured and published here to share solutions from the field.
Planning for Success
The newest Cookbook provides all the details to keep your library’s technology running properly, sustain its growth, and ensure its viability. Based on the real life experiences and successes of librarians across the country, the Cookbook is supported by a complete set of online tools (pdf, 1.6 MB).
Recipes for a Five Star Library
This Cookbook provides easy to follow how-to-do-it tips on all the important library technology topics such as setting up and troubleshooting wireless, print management, and a comprehensive look at laptop checkout programs.
Small and Rural Libraries
This Cookbook contains valuable information on basic technology fundamentals, including maintainance tasks, technology planning, and using volunteers in your library.
THANK YOU to everyone who contributed their experiences! Sharing is what this project is all about.
Welcome to the "Joy of Computing — Planning for Success," a guide for the over-worked librarian. Comprehensive in scope, this online resource brings together the most current ideas and best practices for planning, building, and managing your library’s computer technology. "Planning for Success" is not intended to turn you into a networking guru. It’s sole purpose is to give you the details you need to know to get your library’s technology up and running properly, sustain its growth, and ensure its viability. All of the information contained here is based on the real life experiences and successes of librarians across the country, and is supported by a complete set of online tools. We’ve also provided many opportunities to link to additional Internet resources so — if you are so inclined — you can learn more about a particular topic.
"Planning for Success" is organized into six key segments. You can go through these segments from start to finish, or go to only specific areas of interest. Here is a brief description of what you will find:
Joy of Computing — Planning for Success is also available in a downloadable PDF format.
A technology plan is a lot like a strategic plan or a project plan. It’s a formal mechanism for helping you to see where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. Technology planning is especially vital because bad decisions in this area can cost so much in terms of wasted spending and staff time. It reflects feedback from your key stakeholders (staff, patrons, board members), and also ties back to your strategic priorities and your long-range goals.
The technology planning process lets you step back from the daily routine of checking out books and answering reference questions. It gives you a chance to think about the big picture.
For more reasons why technology planning is important, see this article on WebJunction.
To help you launch your technology planning efforts, we’ve provided a Six-Step Technology Planning tool. It lists some key actions for gathering information and preparing a technology plan for your library. Please note that there’s no strict sequence that you have to follow when creating a technology plan.
Want to learn more about technology planning? Check out the Further Resources section.
Every town has a different power structure, with its own personalities, its own accountability requirements, its own reporting system and its own state and local statutes. So when we talk about how to be a leader in your community, it’s difficult to generalize too much. However, there are a few principles to keep in mind as you develop your technology plan and advocate for that plan.
To find out more about meeting and working with technology decision makers, see the Further Resources section.
A technology assessment provides you with a snapshot of the computing environment in your library. It also gives you a high-level perspective on your staff skills, budget, vendor relationships, procedures and policies. A technology inventory, on the other hand, is a more specific, low-level description of what you own and where it’s located. Your inventory might include details about when and where the technology was purchased, who provides tech support, warranty information and the number of licenses you own. The assessment and the inventory are often done at the same time and often included in the same report.
Under ideal circumstances, a tech inventory is the beginning of an ongoing process known as IT Asset Management, so read that article for a discussion of tools that help you track your hardware and your software licenses. The rest of this article relates mainly to the technology assessment. Also, be sure to review our Technology Assessment Checklist tool to learn more about what’s included in a tech assessment.
Oh, one thing I’ve really been using lately is TechAtlas. And oh my gosh, that is just an awesome tool. I did an inventory of all my computers last year, and of course, I didn’t know about TechAtlas, I wish I had. But I’ve been using it already to work on my 2008 budget and on some surveys for the employees. It helps me understand what they know about computers and how much they can help the patrons. And it’s just — I love it. It’s an awesome tool. I thought it was going to be difficult, but then when I got into it, I was like, oh my God, this is great. And my budget, it’s so easy. TechAtlas lets you enter your line items and just everything that you do on a budget. Oh, and the technology plan, I’ve started entering information on that, too, to prepare a technology plan.Mindy Farley
Barton Public Library
A strategic plan (aka long-range plan) lays down a path for your entire library to follow, including tech staff, circulation staff, director, trustees, pages and so on. It begins with a look at the present, proceeds to a discussion of future trends and then discusses the ways in which your library will address these challenges. As you’re creating a strategic plan, you’ll be getting an overall picture of your library — its strengths, its weaknesses, its opportunities, its ongoing projects and services. You’ll also look at your community to see who they are, why they use the library or don’t use the library and what needs they have that aren’t being fulfilled.
We do have an overall strategic plan. It was a five-year plan, we’re in year three, and that was for the whole library system. We actually hired a consultant. She came in, and we had the community come in and give their opinions about what we should do and all that kind of stuff. Then we set our goals for the next five years, and each year, we update those with activities that support the goals. So, for example, one of the things that the people in the public said that they wanted was they wanted the library to be like a community meeting center. We started talking about maybe we need to renovate some of our older meeting rooms so that they’re more user-friendly and maybe we need to drop in some extra data jacks, stuff like that. That’s where it started. Then as it has progressed, we’ve just done different activities to support that goal. Then what I do, I don’t write a technology plan in a vacuum because to me, that’s kind of pointless.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
Yeah, we do have a technology plan, but pretty much everything is in process. So our technology plan was actually, I can't say it was easy to write, but once I started actually figuring out how to do it all the goals were there already. They were already put in place before I walked through the door, [in] the planning documents for this building.Darla Wegener
Lincoln Public Library, CA
For more information about strategic and technology planning, check out the Further Resources section.
Have you ever tackled a big project on your own...only to find yourself confused and flailing, wishing you had someone to turn to for advice? If so, you know firsthand the importance of an advisory committee. As you dive into this important topic, be sure to review our 10 Rules for Building and Maintaining a Technology Team.
I have a department of five people so we all get together and we go over the plan that’s been done for the library as a whole and we talk about different things that we need to do to support those goals. Some stuff is pretty much the same every year, honestly, replacements and that kind of stuff. But then we talk about other ideas that they might have that support the goals that aren’t on there. So first it goes through my department and then, of course, I run it past the supervisors. This is going to sound terrible and I mean absolutely no disrespect in any fashion, but most of the supervisors don’t really care. They just want it to work; they don’t care how it gets there. But the director certainly likes to see what we’re going to do because that helps her with her budgeting and that kind of stuff. The public services people tend to be more interested in it than some of the other supervisors.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
When you create a team, it needs to be made up of people who are willing to work. If you have someone who only complains and thinks that being on the committee is a way of complaining about stuff, you're never going to go anywhere. But you want people who will see things differently than you...They don't have to be technology whizzes...but they [should] be interested in supporting that type of thing....[Getting] different viewpoints...really helps when you're trying to build something that's going to be accepted by everybody. I had people from different branches and I had a person from the public, which is recommended...because they have a different perspective on your library.Claire Stafford
Madelyn Helling Library, CA
For additional references and tools on building and maintaining technology teams, check out the Further Resources section.
We’ve all been exhilarated at some point by the impact of technology on our lives and our libraries, but at other times computers feel like a huge, unfunded mandate. In the last ten or fifteen years, libraries have become the biggest provider of free computer resources in the country (except for public schools). But rather than acknowledge this shift where it matters the most, local and state governments have been slashing library budgets. In order to push back, we need to emphasize the true costs of technology, as well as the true benefits.
To put it as simply as possible, our job here is to help you figure out how much time and money you’re investing in your technology (the costs) and what you and your patrons are getting back from that investment (the benefits). Sounds easy! Of course, it really isn’t, and some of this material has a steep learning curve, but we’ll start off slowly. If you’re looking for some basic tips and tools and recommendations on where and how to get started writing your technology budget, be sure to review our Writing a Technology Budget — Ideas in Action tool.
There are a lot of different ways you can think about your technology spending. The right model for you depends largely on the goals of your organization, the audience you’re trying to reach (e.g. board of trustees, patrons, politicians, etc.) and any relevant laws or regulations.
If you're looking for some more articles to get you started, look at our Further Resources section.
Total cost of ownership, or TCO, is a business concept that’s been around for about 20 years now, but it’s an idea that librarians have understood informally for centuries. When a patron loses a book, most libraries charge more than the cover price of the book, because the cover price doesn’t include the cost of ordering, processing and cataloging the book. The staff time involved in getting that book into the system is part of the TCO of that book. If you look out even further, there are costs related to shelf space, repairs, circulation, reshelving it and deaccessioning. Cars, houses, pets, children — there’s a TCO associated with just about everything, and computers are no exception.
For example, when you’re setting out to buy a new computer, the latest prices on the Dell or HP web site represents at most 30 percent of the true, long-term cost of that computer. And that’s the high end of the scale. Some experts estimate that the purchase price of a new technology is closer to 10 or 15 percent of the long-term cost. Installation, maintenance, training, tech support and replacement parts are a few of the hidden costs of technology.
On the other hand, some technology acquisitions and upgrades will make your staff more productive or improve the service you offer to patrons. Experts sometimes refer to this as the total value of ownership (TVO) or return on investment (ROI), and you should consider it alongside the TCO. For some additional guidance, we recommend that you read our Some TCO/TVO Questions You Should Be Asking tool.
I am a big return-on-investment girl. For example, the best example I can give you was we have a telephone notification server and when we got that, it was expensive. It was about 20 grand by the time we bought all the hardware and the software. I kept trying to say this will save us so much money and people were saying 'We don’t understand why.' Well, I calculated how many people could have their notices sent to them on a telephone because we’d been mailing them all out and we were mailing about 1400 notices a week. The notification server cut it down to 200 or so every week. We saved 1200 items, and you can do the math. It was 32 cents at the time, so we saved $400 a week basically if we sent out the notices on the phone. And of course, I calculated staff time as well because someone had to process all the notices. So I made a little chart up and said look, ‘Here’s the deal — in three years, this will pay for itself and the server’s probably going to last five or six, so you basically get two years for free of saving money.'Michelle Foster
Boone County Library System, KY
And so it's like, I'm buying a $1,500 computer; I put aside $2,000 so that three years from now, I have enough money to buy another one. And in fact, we talked to, you know, the city manager and he suggested we only change them out every four years, it's not changing that much and it's taking too long to install. So our goal will be by four years, we'll be totally changed out. So they've got all of their computers on retirement schedules and the funding there to help offset those costs. I mean, I thought, to me — I set that up seven, eight years ago. I still find people are stunned to find out that you would do that. It's just a good business practice, it's not anything else. It's not a fancy idea.KG Ouye
San Mateo Library. CA
Well, when I consider total cost of ownership, what I'm taking into account is sustainability. We can do this great project, or install this great piece of software, or buy this piece of equipment that we'll offer to the public. But how much staff time is involved in creating that project or supporting that project, and how much staff time is involved in maintaining it? Can we maintain it really well or not? We think, 'If we just buy this new software product, it'll help us check out books ten times faster.' Okay, maybe it helps you check out books faster but maybe it's more of a burden on the IT department. Are you solving problems, or are you shifting responsibility to different departments? And we ask ourselves [IT staff] the same questions. When we do an IT project we think, 'How does that impact the staff?' If it's going to make the staff have to do ten more steps, how much staff time is that costing us? Maybe it's not really an efficiency thing. Maybe it's not really saving time. Maybe we're just moving that inefficiency around. I think a lot of times people try to use technology as the silver bullet to solve problems that aren’t really technology problems. Maybe they’re staffing problems, or training problems, or workflow problems.Jim Haprian
Medina County Library, OH
We don't buy a computer around here unless we have a plan for purchasing its replacement three years from now. We don’t say, 'Well, I think we're gonna be able to raise more grant money.' If the grant money isn't already in the bank, then we don't buy it. We don’t want to build up a level of service that then is going to get reduced.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
I think in the situation with Userful it was a tremendous total-cost-of-ownership advantage because they didn’t have to hire somebody to actually physically run the network because she could depend on having the support staff. I think it does save us a lot of staff time on cleaning up the computers. We don’t have to run spyware programs and we don’t have to empty temporary Internet files and that sort of thing. That’s all taken care of already. We don’t have to worry about viruses. We don’t have to worry about any of that.Brett Fisher
Flathead County Library, MT
Whether you just need a few basic pointers about TCO methodology or you want to dig a little deeper into the subject matter, we have plenty of additional resource recommendations.
OK, so your library is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Now how do you prove it to your funders and your community? Evaluations and metrics! Or maybe you’re a little more humble and you want a better sense of your library’s strengths and weaknesses, or you want to know whether you’ve done what you set out to do with a particular service or project. How do you find out? Evaluations and metrics!
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to obtain concrete and specific information about your technology services. Some common metrics include:
If you’re manufacturing widgets, it’s fairly easy to determine the types of things you should measure. You want to know:
Libraries, on the other hand, deal with outcomes and results that are much less tangible. We’re trying to teach people and helping them to teach themselves. We’re encouraging folks to adjust their behaviors and attitudes. We’re helping them build new skills. But how do you bring these vague, high-flown aspirations down into more concrete, specific language that politicians and bureaucrats will understand? Try following these three steps.
|STEP||LINK AND LEARN|
|1. Decide what it is you want to measure. This is sometimes known as the outcome, the result or the return on investment. Defining precisely and in detail what exactly you’re trying to do is tough. The first part of evaluation is figuring out exactly what we’re trying to change.||For a fuller of definition of an outcome, see this introduction to outcome based evaluation from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), especially the sections titled "What is outcome evaluation?" and "How does a library or museum do outcome evaluation?".|
|2. Decide how you’ll measure that outcome or result. In other words, what evidence and data will you collect? There might be a single measurement, or you might measure several things. These measurements are often referred to as success indicators. The good ones are usually concrete, observable and countable, but some projects also rely heavily on collecting stories.||For more information on success indicators, refer to the Utah State Library's Outcome Based Evaluation Terms.|
|3. Tell your library's story. Use the outcomes data and success stories you've gatherd to communicate the value your library provides.||For more information on telling your library's story, see this WebJunction article on library advocacy tools and resources.|
For more suggestions on technology evaluation and measurement, check out the Further Resources section.
Finding the Web sites and technology resources that appeal to your learning style and level of understanding takes some patience and some trial and error, but the long-term payoff is huge. The wild proliferation of online educational resources will seem overwhelming at first, but it's also incredibly empowering. If you’re a visual learner, there are video lectures, slide shows, photos, graphs, charts and diagrams. For the auditory learner, there are millions of podcasts and streaming audio files. If you prefer hands-on experimentation, you can find countless step-by-step tutorials. Moreover, you can create a learning experience that mixes all these different styles.
I always think it’s useful to get outside. I get emails from various hardware manufacturers and they’ll have webcasts trying to sell you something, but a lot of times when they do these Webcasts or Webinars, they will have a 15- or 20-minute introduction to the subject in general about a problem you’re confronting, say how to do backup efficiently for low cost and with the least amount of hassle. Now, of course, again they’re going to try and sell you their product because they think it’s the best, but what I found, is that again they’ll give you really a good grounding in understanding what the problem is and what some of the various solutions are. And once they start to get into their sales spiel, a lot of times I’ll not pay as much attention because what I really wanted was to understand do I know all the challenges? Have I thought through the problem that we’re facing and what’s their opinion on some of the solutions? I mean when you get into the larger vendors like Cisco or somebody or Microsoft they’ve got so much free material, archived Webcasts, white papers, all of those type of things that really provides just great background for many of the problems that libraries may be facing as far as technology infrastructure or implementing new solutions and those type of things. If you’re looking to find out what other people are using, again I think almost every vendor, whether it’s a hardware or software vendor, especially the larger ones will have some type of resources oriented towards small and medium businesses. Some of them also will have small office/home office markets, and I think, depending on the size of your library, those are great places, too.Chris Jowaisas
Texas State Library, TX
The Southern Maine library district started a little IT group of librarians who are not just doing IT. It may be the assistant director who does IT. They’re just trying to get the people that handle IT together so that they can see what problems they share and what they don’t, so they just get together four times a year and just talk. I actually just went to the last one in PC reservation systems. I went ‘cause they were sharing information about that and then they were sharing information about open-source. And the library that was hosting it was a small library whose tech person is a volunteer high school student, and he just installed OpenBiblio on a Mac to run their catalog, and so he was talking about his experience with that.Janet McKenney
Maine State Library, ME
If you don’t have time to read a lot and you want to jump right into the process, look at these four documents:
Several state library organizations have created technology standards for libraries. In other words, what sorts of skills, tools, infrastructure and procedures will you find in an ideal library? What do the backup procedures look like? What sort of Web presence is there? What computing services are available to the public (e.g. printing, hands-on assistance from staff, etc.)? How many public computers will you see there? If your library is small, it’ll be difficult to implement all of these suggestions in a single planning cycle, but this standards document from the South Carolina State Library and these five short checklists from the Illinois State Library will help you brainstorm and set goals for yourself.
WebJunction has lots and lots and lots of information on tech planning. The most thorough roadmap to technology planning in libraries can be found in Diane Mayo’s book, Technology for Results: Developing Service-Based Plans. An excerpt from the book can be found at WebJunction. Because it’s so thorough, it’s also time-consuming, and may not be appropriate for smaller libraries.
TechAtlas has a series of questions and surveys to help you create a technology plan. After you’ve registered for an account and logged on, click on the Surveys tab. Once you’ve taken the assessments, TechAtlas will give you recommendations on how to improve your digital infrastructure. This guided approach is a great way to take the uncertainty and guesswork out of tech planning. The Illinois State Library has a similar online questionnaire. As with TechAtlas, you have to register and log on before you can use the assessment tool.
The overall accounting and fiscal management process is way beyond the scope of this site, but here are a few resources related to good accounting (i.e., measuring the costs) to get you started:
Here are two possible learning scenarios to help you get up to speed on TCO.
|SCENARIO DESCRIPTION||WHERE TO GO|
||There are quick descriptions of TCO at TechSoup and LinuxPlanet that are really enough to get you started. The TCO in the Classroom site has another great introduction, though this one is a bit longer. Our TCO/TVO questionnaire will also help you understand this concept.|
There are several evaluation frameworks to help you figure out which measurements best suit your situation. Outcomes-based evaluation, return on investment, and cost-benefit analysis are three of the better-known methodologies. They all take some time to learn and implement, but it’s worth the extra effort if you’re working on a complex, expensive, high-profile project.
It doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of tools around when you are creating a strategic technology plan for your library. The checklists and assessment matrixes complement and amplify the earlier articles in this section.
Use the following chart as a guide to set expectations around the competencies that can help you succeed.
|Imaging and cloning|
|KEY ACTIONS (OR DECISIONS)||RESOURCES|
|Step 1: Find the real IT decision makers in your community and schedule meetings with them.|
|Step 2: Do a technology inventory to figure out what hardware, software and networking equipment you already own.||A thorough technology inventory takes some time and planning, and it requires that you have the right tools. Our Technology Assessment page gives you some tips on doing an inventory and some links to free software to get you started.|
|Step 3: Look at your library’s strategic plan or long-range plan and think about how it will affect your technology plan.||Check our Strategic and Technology Plans.|
|Step 4: Pull together a technology team and schedule your first meeting to discuss the information you’ve collected in steps 1 through 3.||This step is complicated, so be sure to review Building a Technology Team. We’ve included plenty of resources.|
|Step 5: Write the technology plan.||For guidance on the actual writing and brainstorming process, see the following list of additional resources.|
|Step 6: Revisit and evaluate your technology. Plan on a regular basis (every 6 to 12 months).||Your technology plan should be rewritten entirely at least once every three years. For more information on the evaluation process, check out this article and these resources from WebJunction.|
The following are some thoughts and questions you can use to learn more about the key influencers and decision makers in your community.
Please note some possible key decision makers who can assist in your library technology planning.
When you’re creating a technology assessment, this list might help you to get started. For more information on why you should perform an assessment see Technology Assessments.
What’s Included in a technology assessment:
|If you’re a fiscal novice, learn a little about budgets.||The American Library Association's Library Budget Presentation website covers preparing and presenting your library's budget.|
|Pick a software tool to help you with creating your budget.|
|Decide what expenses you’ll include in your budget projections.||
|Think about e-rate.||
Always look at the suggestions of the e-rate administrators (USAC) if you plan to apply for e-rate discounts in the near future. If you don’t follow their advice, you may receive an unpleasant visit from Mr. Auditor.
Total cost of ownership (TCO) refers to the hidden costs of a new technology. Total value of ownership (TVO) is the flip side of TCO and refers to the hidden benefits. Following are a few questions you can ask yourself to help uncover these hidden costs and benefits. However, this list is only partial. For more considerations, check out our additional resources:
Total cost of ownership questions
Total value of ownership questions: You can turn any of the previous questions on their head and ask yourself what the benefits and savings of this new technology are?
What additional TCO questions should you be asking about your specific technology purchases?
Communicating is often a mysterious process, even when it goes smoothly and all sides understand one another. But when the topic under discussion is technology, the participants rarely share the same ideas, experiences, and terminology. Also, the technology lexicon is notoriously vague. One word often refers to multiple concepts, and multiple words often refer to a single concept. To help you avoid misunderstanding, we’ve included some helpful communication advice, as well as lots of stories and suggestions from your fellow librarians. The topic is approached from both the viewpoint of the techie and the viewpoint of the non-techie. Also included are some key resources about the various stakeholder groups you might find yourself talking to about technology.
It’s often impossible to fix a misunderstanding where technology is concerned. If you haven’t identified and communicated your needs clearly at the beginning of a technology project, there may be little or no room for changes later on. Software systems have so many dependencies that a seemingly minor change can ripple outward and cause dozens of unforeseen, undesired consequences. Therefore, a change that might have been easy to implement early on is virtually impossible during the later stages.
You should ask yourself several questions whenever you have a major conversation about technology, whether you’re talking to an individual or a group:
There are really only two types of technology conversations: the ones you have with techies and the ones you have with non-techies. For the purposes of this discussion, a techie is really just anyone who knows more than you do about technology and a non-techie is someone who knows less.
It never pays to over-generalize about a group of people, so take the following advice with a giant grain of salt. However, a few themes come up over and over when folks discuss their successful, and their not-so-successful, interactions with tech wizards and IT folks.
If you are a non-techie looking for some tips on how to bridge the communication gap between you and your IT staff, we suggest you read our “Building a Better Relationship with Your Techies” tool.
For elaboration on each of these points, see the following "Stories from the Field."
Well when we told the guy who's devising this new profile the types of things we wanted and what we wanted to use it for, he introduced some ideas to the staff, some of it being the Linux stuff; Edubuntu and stuff like that. And that gave him motivation and interest, because we were asking him to provide his expertise in what he knew about. So I feel like if you show them what you want and you give them a challenge, they will rise to that type of level if they're really good. We've got some really excellent guys that are working there, and they do rise to the challenge."Claire Stafford
Madelyn Helling Public Library, CA
Try to learn the proper terminology, and try to use it consistently. I don’t know how many times I've heard ‘the system is down’ when what happened was the on/off switch on the monitor got pressed. The person starts using terminology like ‘system’ without actually evaluating the system. They didn't turn the mouse upside down to see if the light is still on or is the green light on the CPU unit on things like that.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
Be observant and don’t jump to conclusions. The story that I tell on this one is that when I was in college, I took an experimental psych class where we ran rats through mazes, and the professor would pound into us that we couldn't always draw conclusions on cause and effect. And so what I find people frequently making mistakes on is they'll describe to me a conclusion rather than focusing on what the symptom is that they're really seeing.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
Instead of getting an email saying, ‘Well this computer went down and here's what happened. The patron was doing this and got this error message.’ That's what I need to help to fix the problem. Instead, I get an email saying, ‘It's broken.’ And it's like, well, then I've got to spend twice as long going down there and actually doing the research and investigation to figure out what happened, what was going on, whereas if they'd spend just a couple minutes longer to help me I can help them faster. That's always a problem.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
Well, I would recommend looking at things like Wired magazine and some of the other introductory PC magazines just to get used to the language. Scan the environment, know what’s going on out there so you can talk to them intelligently about trends. Get a gadget. Have an iPod. Try and make iTunes work on your home computer. Just experiment with it and realize that it can be fun. And you’re learning new things while you’re doing it that can help you in your job. I think that’s really key. And ask your IT guys for help if you’re confused or if you have a problem at home or if you have difficulty with a gadget. It opens the conversation and the lines of communication.Stephanie Beverage
Orange County Public Library, CA
When you have non-technical staff, they don't always understand why things don't work and why you can't just push a button and have it fixed tomorrow. I frequently get complaints such as, ‘Well, this worked yesterday and it doesn't work today.’ Well, it's a Web page that went down. There's nothing that I can do to fix that. You can't control when the Internet goes down from the ISP. There's nothing I can do about that except call them and hope they get it back up right away.Anonymous Library Director
And we’re in Minnesota, and we’ve got this fabled ‘Minnesota nice.’ And it’s true, people will not do anything that they think will put somebody out in a lot of cases. And if our staff think that we’re too busy, sometimes they don’t even call. And sometimes they’ll call and say, ‘Are you busy?’ And you have to say, ‘Well, yeah, we’re always busy, but we need to help you if you need something.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN
Because people are aware that I'm a department of one, sometimes they don't want to bother me because I'm too busy to hear about their little problem that, maybe the keyboard doesn't work sometimes. Well, I wish they'd tell me, but they don't. So, a lot of times I hear about things if I visit a branch that have been ongoing, and no one's told me.Eric Brooks
Placer County Library, Auburn, CA
We’ve included a few resources that cover the fine art of managing communication with techies. Most have been written from a corporate perspective, but the underlying advice is universal.
It may sound odd to you if you’re the accidental techie in your library or if you’re a newly employed librarian, but sometimes, you actually know a lot more than your colleagues do. When you’re pushing technical innovation in your library, how do you avoid the temptation to speak over everyone’s head? How do you put your colleagues at ease when they’re feeling overwhelmed by all this new hardware and software?
For elaboration on each of these points, see the following “Stories from the Field” section.
In the long run, I try to be more of a teacher than a doer. If somebody has a problem doing something, I’ll go downstairs, even if they call me on the phone, to show them how to fix it or show them what happened or why it happened. That way, it won't happen again. That prevents a lot of repeated issues....I have one branch that has connectivity problems periodically, and they're a pretty busy branch, and now they know how to reset their network equipment, and they just do it every morning to deal with the fact that their lines go down all the time. So, you go show them and you give them written instructions, and now they just do it.Eric Brooks
Placer County Library, Auburn, CA
A problem I have here is constant, absolutely constant, interruptions with minor computer questions that they won’t put in writing. They just walk into my office and want to take up half an hour of my time. And I don’t have the time. So I developed a form, a simple form. Make it easy for people, make it simple to click, make it as automated as you can, and put it on their desktop. They just have to fill it in and click email and it’s sent to me by email.Alice Weiss
St. John the Baptist Parish Library, LaPlace, LA
Our non-tech staff, especially the front desk staff that are working with the patrons, they’re the ones that the patrons come up to tell if a computer’s not working. Because they see the public so often, [through the process of elimination] they sometimes end up with a really good idea of what a problem might be, but they don’t necessarily know how to explain it in tech terms. [However,] their input can solve the problem for the tech if they just have good lines of communication.Loren McCrory
Yuba County Library, CA
It’s something I found online that was cheap, and it was so funny because they finally came back to me, well, maybe six months to a year later saying, 'Well, I guess we’ll go with this one that you showed us initially. I guess it’ll work.' And that was back when I used to get frustrated by those things. I’m now used to that kind of process. It takes a little getting used to ‘cause they don’t expect librarians to know. That’s part of the problem and why I was saying that you really do have to keep up with stuff in order to talk with the IT staff, because if you’ve got ideas about things, they’re not going to believe you the first time you tell them anyway.Loren McCrory
Yuba County Library, CA
Yeah, and then I think from the geek end, from the technology side of this whole communication process, try to use consistent language and have a sense of humor. And don’t get into the blame game. I think there's nothing that will more quickly shut down an end user than if they start feeling that they're being held accountable for something. For the technology person to start saying, you know, 'This was done wrong and that was done wrong,' well, boy, forget it, all communication is gone at that point. So everybody needs to stay away from the blame game.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
The communication issue is always going to be something that's challenging just because a lot of times you forget, especially after you've been doing this for many, many years, how confusing this can be. So that naturally has to be kept in mind when talking to people who don't use technology on a regular basis.Robin Hastings
Missouri River Regional Library, MO
Do your best to keep open relations with the frontline staff. Let them know that you and systems people are there to serve them. We talk about having internal and external customers. So we serve both the staff and the patrons. When it comes to things like what you need for new computers, where you need them, what your plans are going to be;it’s really the frontline staff who are going to be driving that. I never want to start with technology and then find a use for it afterwards. Because it’s not about the technology; it’s about the people and it’s about the public.Aimee Fifarek
Scottsdale Public Library, AZ
I think the IT guys have a different attitude toward the computer than we do. We supply the computers for the public, and within reason, we want them to be able to do what they want, including playing games on the computers. Sometimes, what I hear is the IT guys don't want the games on the computers, and they think that the computers should only be used for research which, is silly. And when they give us a newly reimaged computer, it won't allow anyone to play bridge or anything like that. I do know how to get in so that it will allow games, but every time they reimage a computer, I have to remember to go back in and do it all.Robyn Holden
Mendocino County Library, CA
To other staff, I’m sure that seeing me working away on a project that springs fully formed from my laptop is [possibly] equally frustrating. I learned at my last library job how to ask for feedback on projects as I worked, to try to get people to feel like they were part of the process while at the same time not just saying 'So, what do you guys think of the new Web site?' Getting responses on the new Web site design that indicated that I should change the colors, add more photographs or rework the layout when we were a few days away from launching made me gnash my teeth thinking 'But I’ve been working with you on this all along, for months...!' and yet their responses indicated that clearly I hadn’t been, not in a way that was genuine to them.Jessamyn West
To find out more about communicating with non-techies, check out our Further Resources section.
Imagine a library where the director makes all the decisions and controls every last detail of the organization. The director is, of course, benevolent, well informed and creative, with unimpeachable judgment. Have you ever encountered this library in real life? Probably not because, in reality, we only have full control of very small projects. With anything else, we have to turn to stakeholders, both inside and outside the library. We need their support, funding, advice and approval. The following resources can help you talk about technology with some of the biggest “library stakeholders.”
The governor has just walked through the door, along with Bill Gates and the Pope. Quick, say something! This is your chance to get some money for your new building! In management jargon, you’re face to face with some “key decision makers.” Of course, every decision maker has different values and interests, so there’s no script that works in every situation. But a few pieces of advice will serve you well:
See Talking with Techies for details.
Mary Niederlander at http://librarysupportstaff.com has compiled an excellent collection of quotes and links about Coworker Relationships and Communication. Also, check out Michael Stephens’ Ten Steps to Ensure Staff Buy-in for Technology Projects.
The subject of communicating with vendors is covered in Vendor Selection and Management, which discusses the purchasing equation.
The right technology consultant can make or break a new initiative. Sometimes, you can “fake it until you make it.” In other words, you can struggle with a new technology project or a new subject and figure it out as you go along. But sometimes, you just don’t have the time, and even if you feel equal to the task, it’s sometimes useful to get an outsider’s perspective. However, if you hire the wrong consultant and give him or her too much control, you’ve just thrown away a lot of time and money.
TechSoup has several excellent articles to help you get started. Read the following articles, roughly in the order listed:
A lot of the conversations we have with patrons happen informally and spontaneously while answering reference questions. The same rules apply to these situations as during any reference interview. However, if you run into tricky situations, you can also look at our advice on Talking with Non-Techies, or you can look at WebJunction’s resources on Patron Technology Training.
One specific situation…and challenging conversation…that often arises in libraries is the unsolicited computer donation. Accepting an outdated PC can actually end up costing you money as you struggle to upgrade it and replace parts. Also, a library full of mismatched, nonstandardized computers can be frustrating and time-consuming to support and maintain. Consider creating a written donation policy that outlines what you’ll accept and what you won’t accept. For more advice, see TechSoup’s Donated Computers for Non-Profits and Six Tips for Accepting and Rejecting Donated Equipment.
So I usually go to the board meetings, and a lot of them are not really technically minded and they kind of trust me; it’s like, well, we know that Matt knows what’s good for the library. And so I don’t make outrageous requests, and they’re pretty good about it. But just having an open dialogue so that everyone along the way knows what it is we’re doing. Last year, I was asking for a lot of money for a program called VSpaces, which was a federated search portal application. And it’s like, if you went to a board and said, ‘I want this amount of money for a VSpace; it’s a federated search platform.’ They’re going to say, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ So as long as my accounting department knows what it is, the director knows what it is and the board knows what it is, those communications are there. I think that makes a big difference. And sometimes, you have board members who are resistant to things, and we’ve had board members in the past who questioned everything and wanted details about why did you buy this many computers and why was it over this amount? And it’s just a matter of working with them on communication.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
I sort of played dumb when I called the companies and asked what they would charge per hour and how they would support us. I had one man, I can't remember, it was a couple of years ago. And I told him what we were running on our servers and how many servers we had. He kept saying, ‘Well, you have to upgrade to Server 2003’ or something like that, and he said, ‘I can do that for you.’ So I said, ‘Well, we can’t upgrade to Server 2003 because our library automation system has said they’re not supporting that yet. They will eventually, but at the moment, they can’t.’ But it was like he didn’t listen. He just kept saying, ‘But you need to upgrade to that.’ So I wrote him off right off the bat. I just said flat out, ‘We're not interested in using you as a company because you’re not listening to me. And you’re trying to sell me things that I can’t use right now.’ So I think that was sort of a combination of not listening and not really understanding the library part of it.Becky Heils
Dubuque County Library, IA
Many libraries encourage staff to participate in opportunities for the library to actively engage in the community outside library walls…with good reason:
Successful collaboration can have many benefits including:
Partnerships can range from short-term agreements to share a venue and the associated costs of a single program, to long-range arrangements between government agencies or businesses to provide ongoing services. Examples include:
Collaborations start with relationships; it is all about interactions between people. Common interests can be a great starting point as well as personal connections that already exist through the library board, trustees, staff and volunteers. Each community is different, and every library serves different constituents. Look locally to find complementary organizations. Many libraries find collaborations successful with national organizations that have local affiliates. Other partnerships include those with libraries of same type and other types, museums, schools, healthcare organizations, community groups, literacy councils, businesses/chambers of commerce and economic development organizations.
For a helpful list of possible partners, check out our “Compatible Library Partners Chart” tool.
Resources can be either tangible (funds, facilities, staff or customers) or intangible (reputation, goodwill, connections or useful information). Libraries are often valuable community collaborators; however, many organizations don’t always immediately think to include them at the table. Libraries shouldn’t just be at the table. They should own the table. Invite the community to your library and share with them some of the key benefits of collaboration, as outlined here.
David Lee King has collected some links on how to communicate with people who don’t know as much as you do about technology. Also, check out Bridging the Gap Between Techies and NonTechies and Seven Tips for Talking with Nontechnical People. Of course, this sort of conversation occurs when you’re talking with patrons, trustees, directors, politicians and even IT folks themselves, but the same logic applies in every variant of this situation. Be patient, be understanding and listen carefully to their concerns.
The essence of collaboration is suggested by the word itself. Collaboration is about co-labor; it occurs when people from different organizations work together through shared efforts, resources and ownership of a common goal. Strong partnerships occur between organizations with similar backgrounds; clear loyalties and interests; clear communication channels; responsibility and accountability for success and sharing of resources, risks, and rewards. The following tools are designed to help you form strong, collaborative partnerships inside and outside of your organization.
Be as specific as possible. Have you ever called tech support and started a conversation with “My computer won’t turn on” or “The Internet’s broken”? These sorts of calls will make your IT department prematurely grey. Help-desk technicians prefer to spend time diagnosing and solving problems as opposed to figuring out exactly what you were doing when the problem occurred. For example, instead of saying that the Internet’s broken, tell them exactly what program you were in, what web page you were trying to visit and what type of error message you received. Also, if you know something about network troubleshooting and you’ve done some work to narrow down the problem, let your IT folks know what steps you’ve already taken.
Be empathetic. We ask our IT departments to implement technology that’s reliable, secure, user-friendly and cheap. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, so keep in mind the pressure your techies are under and the competing interests they have to balance.
Don’t pretend to know more than you really do. If you fake it by smiling and nodding your head, they’ll bury you in jargon and you’ll walk away with a headache. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for an explanation of some basic terms and concepts. You’ll learn more that way, and they’ll respect you for your honesty and willingness to learn.
Challenge your techies. A lot of tech folks love to solve thorny problems and grapple with new ideas. Take advantage of their curiosity and their thirst for knowledge (they want you to). If you don’t have any big projects for them to research or difficult problems for them to solve, make sure they have some time each week to pursue their own interests.
Talk to the techies in your organization in a relaxed, informal setting. Ask them about their workflow, their projects, the things that motivate them and the technologies they’re excited about. Like anyone else, techies want to be heard. If you listen carefully to their enthusiasms and their concerns, they’ll be more likely to do the same for you. Moreover, as you listen to IT staff talk about their projects, you’ll start to absorb a lot of IT lingo and knowledge.
Become an amateur techie. The more you learn about technology, the more likely it is that your techies will see you as a peer and the more willing they’ll be to trust your instincts when it’s time to make a decision. Some good ways to become an unofficial member of the “tech collective” are as follows:
|Clubs, Nonprofits, Charities and Other Organizations||
Research state and local foundations at http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/topical/sl_dir.html. Michigan State University lists service clubs and civic organizations that provide funding at http://staff.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/servicec.html. Your library friends groups, board, staff and local directories may also help identify clubs and other organizations that are potential collaborators.
|TechSoup for Libraries and TechSoup||TechSoup for Libraries and TechSoup are both sources for collaboration information and resources.|
|Building Digital Communities||IMLS initiative focused on communities working together across sectors to make progress on digital inclusion initiatives (http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/IMLS_Build_Digital_Communities.html).|
|WebJunction||WebJunction offers many articles and discussions around the topic of collaboration and partnerships at http://webjunction.org/explore-topics/partnerships.html.|
|ICMA, the International City/County Management Association||ICMA's library page (http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/topics/topic/161) offers news and resources, including Maximize the Potential of Your Public Library, a research report on public library partnerships with local governments.|
|State Library Associations||(http://www.ala.org/groups/affiliates/chapters/state/stateregional)|
|Urban Libraries Council||
Publications on collaboration, leadership, and other topics, as well as annual library "Innovations" awards for civic and community engagement (http://www.urbanlibraries.org).
|National Network of Libraries of Medicine||Public Libraries and Community Partners: Working Together to Provide Health Information, including tips from a successful partnership.|
|Businesses/Chambers of Commerce/Economic Development Organizations
||Local employers, small business owners, visitors’ centers, chambers of commerce, economic development councils, industry councils, real estate agents, restaurants
|Community Services Organizations/Associations/Clubs
||Literacy organizations, YMCA, AARP, AAUW, American Red Cross, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, United Way, neighborhood associations, organizations serving the homeless, Salvation Army
||Theater groups, art leagues, dance supporters, arts commissions, historic preservation groups, state humanities councils
||Public schools, private schools, colleges/universities, PTA or PTO groups, school boards, home school organizations, multilingual programs, higher education institutions/organizations, tutoring organizations
||Ethnic chambers of commerce, NAACP, tribal councils, Latino/Hispanic groups, Asian groups, Urban League, refugee rights associations, refugee/immigrant centers/services, refugee rights association
|Family Services Organizations
||Family service agencies, social services departments
||Bankers, credit unions, financial planners, stockbrokers
||Mayor, city/county manager, city council, county supervisors, city/county fiscal office, city/county planning office, law enforcement officers, job training programs
||American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, hospitals, public health nurses, public health clinics, National Network of Libraries of Medicine
||Legal aid, ACLU, bar associations
||School media center staff, college or university librarians, special librarians
||Newspaper, radio, TV, ethnic media, local magazines, community newsletters
|Organizations of/for People with Disabilities
||Center on Deafness, Council of the Blind, state/county/city health and human services, Easter Seal, Goodwill, independent living centers, United Cerebral Palsy
||Medical associations, board of realtors, bar association, business and professional women’s groups
|Religious Groups and Organizations
||Churches, ministerial alliance, youth groups, Jewish community centers, Young Life, Catholic Services
|Senior Centers/Service Organizations
||Area Agency on Aging, senior centers, RSVP
||Computer clubs, consultants, community colleges, Internet providers, universities
|Youth Services Organizations
||Big Brother/Sister, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, FFA, FHA, child abuse agencies, city/county recreation programs, Junior Achievement, Head Start, Even Start, child care associations, local Association for the Education of Young Children, school-age care and enrichment programs
|Women’s Centers/Service Organizations
||Women’s shelters, YWCA, National Organization for Women, Junior League, Soroptimist, sororities
Tempe Public Library is located in Maricopa County, Arizona, the fastest growing county in the nation. With a constant flow of newcomers, the library is one of the only non-commercial places for residents to gather, learn about their new communities and exchange social and educational information. The library offers special opportunities to bring families with young children together and to build social connections between older adults, young parents and relevant community services.
One of their strategies emphasizes collaboration and co-location. Tempe Library has located its branches near other public services, such as the Escalante Community Center, which operates under the city's Community Services Department and houses the Tempe Community Action Program, the Escalante Senior Center, the Youth Assistance Program, summer camp programs, health services, adult employment services and recreational activities as well as a library branch. The library offers opportunities such as the Family Place Libraries program to bring families with young children together and to build social connections between older adults, young parents and relevant community services. The library’s outreach staff collaborates with colleagues at the Escalante Community Center to maximize possibilities for community engagement.
Tempe Public Library also obtained funding for the construction and operation of the Tempe Connections Café and program space through a $547,644 grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Civic Ventures is a community-focused think tank that partnered with Tempe Connections and is part of Civic Ventures’ national initiative, The Next Chapter, which encourages communities to create new approaches that help retiring adults transition to new life phases by providing a supportive community for ongoing learning, development and societal contributions.
The Friends of the Tempe Public Library operate the café and program space, with all profits used for the support of Connections programs and services. Community collaboration and citizen involvement is a key part of the Tempe Connections program. During the planning for the grant, Tempe Task Force on Aging members provided input, and now a Connections Advisory Council sets project goals, hires staff and plans for operations. More than two dozen community organizations and educational institutions partnered with the city of Tempe to participate in the planning and delivery of program offerings. A few highlights include:
Salt Lake City Public Library has established itself as the community gathering place. The city block it occupies, called Library Square, includes retail outlets such as The Community Writing Center of Salt Lake Community College, a nonprofit artist’s cooperative, public radio station KCPW, a delicatessen, a coffee shop and Night Flight Comics, a graphic novel and comics shop. The library’s contract with the retailers stipulates that they must be community-focused. They share programming, training, broadcasting and implementation of large events. More than 1,000 other groups and organizations meet at SLCPL, including the League of Women Voters, Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice, Utah Quilters, Utah Storytelling Guild, the Authors Club, Women in Recovery and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Most of these groups partner in programming with SLCPL, making the library not only the place to meet in Salt Lake City, but the place to develop events as well.
Laramie County Library System, Wyoming, was Library Journal’s Library of the Year 2008. Some of the many agencies and organizations with which LCLS has formed alliances include The Wyoming State Museum, Old West Museum, Laramie County Head Start, Stride Learning Center, Cheyenne Animal Shelter, YMCA, Cheyenne Boys and Girls Club, Cheyenne Lions Club, Cheyenne Rotary Club, Cheyenne Eye Clinic, Starbucks, Cheyenne Women’s Civic League and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Library Journal selects a library of the year annually. Online profiles of these libraries demonstrate the commonality of great collaborations as evidence of a strong and valued community library.
Nashville Public Library and their community partners provide a constant stream of programs in literacy, culture, public affairs, education, design and local history. Partners include the Vanderbilt Symphony, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Nashville Kurdish Association, the Women's Bar Association and the Intermuseum Council. To educate the community about the significant role that Nashville citizens played in the civil rights movement, the library built a Civil Rights Room and presents programs with the National League of Cities, Fisk University, the First Baptist Church, the First Amendment Center and the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. According to the Tennessee state librarian, the Nashville Public Library is “a diverse and welcoming activity hub and a center for public discourse...The library is committed to building strategic community partnerships and responsive public programs that enhance the lives of all residents of the Nashville community. It demonstrates the power of libraries to inform and bring communities together.”
Boston Public Library’s Kirstein Business Branch provides business development services to new immigrants. A microlending program in New England sends aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs to the Kirstein Business Branch. The library developed a Spanish version of a popular workshop, Getting Started in Business, in partnership with the Small Business Center at the University of Massachusetts.
The September Project is a grassroots effort that encourages libraries and communities to come together in meaningful ways throughout the month of September. September Project events explore issues that matter — like peace or freedom — and can include book displays, panel discussions, civic deliberations, film screenings, theatrical performances, community book readings, murals, kids’ art projects and so much more. The September Project began in 2004 and continues to grow. In 2007, there were more than 500 free September Project events organized locally in libraries in 30 countrie including public forums, discussions and round tables.
Brooks Memorial Library in Vermont partnered with their local college IT department to get computer donations to use as backups when the library computers are in service so that they can still provide the public with basic Internet and word processing services. (source: MIT interview, Jerry Carbone)
Southwest Harbor Public Library in Mt Desert Island, Maine, created a computer committee. Libraries are creating technology advisory committees to help with planning, tech support and community needs assessments. “The computer committee is a group comprised of patrons and several staff members. It’s all volunteer. There are about five or so core folks with experience in computers because of their professional background or out of interest. It’s an opportunity for me and for other staff members to bring up things that have come up in our daily computer interactions, and it’s also an arena through which we can plan. This has been a focus that we’re trying to move towards, and it’s been really great to have outside information and ideas. It’s like a think tank, and when I get frustrated I can say, ‘Hey, I really don’t know what’s going on. Does anyone? Have you heard of this?’ These are folks that I can email or call. They’ve just been really quite invaluable.” Kate McMullin, MIT interview
Pryor Public Library collaborates with the local high school to support their technology needs. Shreffler, who teaches the high school computer classes and acts as Pryor Public Library’s technology consultant, explained that when the current librarian wanted to spend money to hire a full-time IT staff member, he stepped in and offered his students’ services instead. “I have students that are available about every hour, and we train them to help,” Shreffler said. “And it’s a good thing for us and it’s not a lot of trouble.” Shreffler and his students visit the library several times a week to perform a variety of maintenance chores on the computers, including replacing malfunctioning computer components, installing software and troubleshooting occasional connectivity problems. Because most of the computers are more than four years old, having a regular maintenance team has been especially useful in keeping Pryor Public Library’s machines functional. MIT interview
Richland County Library in Sidney, Montana, collaborates with local businesses. For example, Renee Goss said she received a lot of free help from the local computer store in exchange for letting the store train its employees on library computers. Goss has also been working with local electronic stores to offer discounts on mp3 players for library card holders. “I think it’s in collaboration that you learn about your community, they learn about you and you figure out how you can pair up with somebody,” she said. “Collaborative efforts are the key to whatever it is you’re doing. Work with as many groups as you can.” MIT interview Renee Goss, Director
Princeton Public Library Discussion on WebJunction: Unconventional Partnerships by Janie Herman
I just thought I would share a few of the unconventional partnerships that Princeton Public Library has established over the years to increase our level of programming without incurring too much additional cost.
One of partnerships is with local theaters to provide previews and pre-performance lectures or ‘meet the cast’ sessions prior to the show opening. One series is called ‘McCarter Live @ the Library,’ and we normally have anywhere from 75 to 100 people show up for these programs. We also do ‘Passage Theater Previews.’ The theater benefits with a bit of extra promotion, and our patrons love having a chance to mingle with the cast and crew and to hear about the behind-the-scenes making of the productions.
We have also teamed with the local arts council to create an art gallery in our reference section. They change the installation every three months and feature the works of two artists per show. When the installation is complete, we host an ‘Art Talk’ with the artists — the library provides food, the arts council brings wine and it is a classy night. Attendance ranges from 50 to 100.
Another unique partnership is with a local Italian restaurant that pays the public performance rights for our Italian films series and then hosts a reception at the restaurant after the films. We have a large Italian community that just loves this event.
We also collaborate with a local poetry group to do a ‘Poet Invite’ every month. They select the poets and host the evening; we just provide space and PR.
There are several other partnerships, but the one thing that all of our partnerships have in common is that we get quality programming for minimal expense.
Create a culture of collaboration. Library leaders should not just understand the value of collaboration; you also need to convince and inspire others to initiate collaborations and work to help them succeed. One of the first steps in this process is to articulate and promote a vision of collaborating without boundaries — not just as a short-term response to an immediate need, but as a critical element of the library’s long-term strategy. Management has to make it clear in both word and deed that everyone needs to find potential collaborators to help them solve problems and create opportunities. Speak about it and model it. Celebrate successes and make the benefits clear to everyone at the library. Encourage library staff to attend meetings and networking opportunities outside of the library.
Even if you follow the technology industry, keeping up with every change in processor speed and every new software feature is a big challenge. While we can’t take the complexity out of the buying process, we can provide a few questions and answers to help you focus your research.
Once you make a technology purchase, there’s bound to be some work involved in getting the hardware from the box to the desktop. The same is true of new software. How will you get that software from the installation CDs out to the end users? As with all of the stages in the technology life cycle, it’s worth taking some time to plan for deployments, installations and upgrades.
Although it’s helpful to think about the specific decisions that have to be made during the installation of new hardware and software, it’s also worth studying the broader, umbrella subject of IT change management. Change management is beyond the scope of this project, but if you’re interested, check out How to Develop an IT Change Management Program and the Wikipedia articles on this topic. These are fairly technical, but when boiled down, they all stress the importance of communication, documentation, planning and testing.
There are five good reasons why you should think through and carefully plan for the technology you bring into the library. Here’s a quick summary:
Unless you know how to build your own computers from scratch and write your own software, you’ll have to talk with IT vendors sooner or later. Librarians have a lot of leverage when it comes to building and managing these relationships, but we don’t always know how to exercise our power. Getting the best service and the best price takes some thought and planning.
Here, we break down the process of working with vendors and recommend a few good online resources for each step along the way. We’ve used fairly vague, general language (“project,” “purchase,” “purchasing decision”) because our advice applies to a wide variety of situations. You may be looking to buy a workstation, a printer, a suite of productivity software, an ILS system or an operating system. On the other hand, you might be in the market for a consultant or a contractor to build a database or a Web site.
I am probably known to have as few vendors as possible to keep things simple. After you’re their customer for a little bit, you get free stuff. The place we buy most of our hardware and software from, we get free shipping, free installation of extra parts. I had to have 10 extra serial ports put in for some of the touch screens we use on some PCs we bought for this building, and they put them in for free. There was no installation charge. I’ve gotten like tons and tons of free stuff from the guy [who is] my main vendor. In terms of networking, some people will have the cable company for this part or different Internet providers; I hate that. I’ve gotten stuck in situations before where it’s a he said/she said kind of thing, where one company says ‘Oh, no, it’s their fault. Oh, no it’s their fault.’ I hate that, and then you’re stuck in the middle. I’m good, but I’m not so good that I know every single thing in the world, so at some point, you need a person [who] really, really knows and is really, really specialized, and they can say ‘No, this is the problem and we will fix it.’ It’s nice to have one person to call to do that. I find that when you have multiple vendors, sometimes it’s really, really hard for someone to say ‘Yes, we’ll fix it.’Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
Partnership and collaboration are themes we’ve hit on repeatedly in the Cookbooks. When you’re buying technology, higher volume usually leads to better prices and better service. You can collaborate with state purchasing agencies, state libraries, regional library cooperatives, municipal IT departments, local colleges, K-12 schools, K-12 libraries and on and on. For more on partnering with other organizations, see Effectively Collaborating with Other Libraries and Partners. Also, be sure to review our How to Buy Cooperatively Quick Reference.
Talk to local experts or do your own research to ensure that you’re authorized to buy off of a particular contract. States and localities have different rules about setting up purchasing cooperatives and buying off of contracts that someone else negotiated.
In Montana, a lot of people don’t know this still, and I’ve been trying to educate people, but our state government, when they negotiate contracts with vendors for software or hardware, they almost always throw in the clause that local government agencies are allowed to purchase off those contracts. So we get a pretty hefty discount for a lot of things — not only hardware, but software and services like my cell phone; my business cell phone is through a state term contract….We’re lucky enough in Montana that our state government has a contract with Novell. It’s called a master license agreement, or MLA, and when they negotiated that MLA, they also put in a clause that local governments are allowed to purchase off that contract. So whatever list price is, I get, like, 42 percent off list price. And it’s a licensing thing, so I’ve got, I forget my numbers, but it’s, like, 40 some desktops that use ZENworks. So I pay an annual maintenance fee on those licenses, which means I get support and product upgrades for free.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
I don’t even look at the retail pricing anymore. Even if I called Dell, for example, and I ask for a quote, they already know that I have a state contract, so I get the state contract pricing by default. I don’t know what pricing I would get if it wasn’t for that. But I was looking at a laptop, and it was at least $500 difference between what was on their W ebsite versus what the state contract pricing was. It’s great...I found out about it just because the person before me was aware of it. And I have a feeling that the way we got onto it in the first place was [that] we were using a state contract for purchasing vehicles. And you know, vehicles are such a significant purchase. You’re always looking for the best way to get it...Ongoing paperwork is nothing. It’s just fill in your organization address and send a check to participate in the Cooperative Purchasing Ventures, as they call it in Minnesota. And the fee is small. I’m guessing it’s just to cover administrative costs.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, MN
Many times, they’ll have a state contract and then they’ll have a rep for a particular piece of that state contract, so that person will know about the differences on that particular piece of the contract and can tell you who to get in touch with and that type of thing. Another advantage is that a lot of times, at least in Texas, the way that contracts work is if you buy off the state contract, it’s legally binding. It meets all bid requirements, regardless of what local bid requirements are or anything like that. So from that point of view, it makes it easier because you don’t have to mess with doing all the legal stuff. In some states, if you go above a certain amount, you have to go out and get three bids or something like that. In a lot of places, if you have that state contract, you don’t have to go out and get those bids. You already have. It’s already been negotiated.Chris Jowaisis
Texas State Library, TX
And you don’t have to buy off the state contract if you can find a better deal somewhere else. You’re not limited to the state contract. It’s just that if you do buy off the state contract, then there’s something called the Uniform Procurement Law in Massachusetts, and it governs when you have to get three bids for something. It has thresholds for when you have to get three bids for a service or when you have to do a sealed bid. If you buy off the state contract, then parts of that process are already done for you and you don’t have to go through all of it. But you’re not restricted to the state contract if you can find a better deal somewhere else.Sia Stewart
Kingston Public Library, MA
IT standardization is a strategy for minimizing IT costs within an organization by keeping hardware and software as consistent as possible and reducing the number of tools you have that address the same basic need. It may take the form of ensuring that every computer has the same operating system, or of purchasing hardware in bulk so that every PC in your office is the same make and model. Standardization often goes hand in hand with centralization, the process of giving your IT department more control over purchases of hardware and software, and more control over what staff members are allowed to do with their office computers.
While imposing equipment standards can help you streamline your IT infrastructure, simplify decision making and minimize purchasing and maintenance costs, the process of standardizing itself can be complicated. In the following section, we'll show you ways to gauge the level of standardization your organization requires, highlight some of the benefits of standardization and offer tips for standardizing your equipment while balancing organizational and staff needs.
Yeah, when I first started here at the bottom of the totem pole about eight years ago now, there was no standardization at all. And in fact, there wasn’t any kind of automated process for distributing software. So it took a whole day for somebody to sit down and install the software on a PC, which automatically led to a lack of standardization. You’re always gonna make a mistake when you’re doing it manually. And then there were multiple models of computers, because they would just buy whatever could be purchased whenever the money was available rather than making large bulk purchases and keeping it standardized.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, MN
Right now, one of the biggest problems in our old building is that everything was different. Like, we would buy a PC here and a PC there and get one donated, and everything was different, so maintaining everything was hard. And the goal now is we’re just going to turn over everything all at the same time, and so all the PCs in the building, at least the public PCs, would all be the same. And right now, they’re all exactly the same systems, with exactly the same hardware loaded on them, and they all work the same. So it’s easy for the public when they come in — no matter what workstation they sit down at, it’s exactly the same as any other. And it’s easy to maintain them because the people [who] are working with [them] know what’s on there and the different glitches with them and whatnot. And so our goal is to have this turnover where we just put money aside every year for this big purchase every four years, and then you get a good deal on PCs. You’re buying in bulk.Valerie Meyerson
Charlevoix Public Library, MI
What I try to do is replace whole branches at a time. When I do the main branch, for example, there’ll be, like, 100 computers that I buy, and I’ll buy them all at one time. But then the smaller branches, I group them together so that I’m replacing several branch computers at the same time. Honestly, I don’t like to buy fewer than about 50 PCs at a time, just because we try to stay on a five-year cycle — not even five years, four years. So I try to buy as much as I can at one time. Then when I do buy some more computers, I try as often as possible to get similar hardware configurations.Michelle Foster
Boone Public Library, KY
While nonprofits may hold on to hardware equipment until the last bit of life has been squeezed out of it, many corporations abandon working computers in good condition after just three or four years of use. While this equipment may be outdated for the bleeding-edge needs of a large enterprise, that doesn't mean it doesn't have years of life that it can offer your organization — especially when its components have been examined and updated by a professional refurbisher.
You can find laptops, desktops, servers, PDAs and most other types of hardware, all from a wide variety of manufacturers, with a wide variety of components and specifications. Bear in mind, though, there are many ways to buy refurbished computers, and as with anything else, it pays to do some research and planning.
[Off-lease computers] are used computers. They’re leased to corporations instead of purchased. And when the lease runs out, they’re replaced with newer computers, and then the ones that they had previously are usually bought out by various companies that are in this business. And they refurbish them and make sure they’re all working, and they turn around and sell them as used computers that have come off of a lease. They’re usually business-class computers. They’re not the consumer kind that you find at Wal-Mart. And they’ve been working for three years, so you know they’re going to probably work for at least another three, if not longer. And you get pretty good deals with them.Jeff Hawkins
Lassen Library, CA
To learn more about buying refurbished computers and/or for a list of suppliers of refurbished computers, check out our Further Resources section.
As with cars, TVs or any other large, expensive outlay, you don’t have to own the technology in your organization. You can rent desktop machines, servers, networking equipment and just about anything else. And while you usually pay a bit more in the long run, some organizations find it easier from a purchasing and accounting viewpoint. Before you lease any technology, you need to take some time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the decision.
No one wants to get caught in a lease agreement that is too restrictive or too vague. We recommend that you download our tool, Examine a Lease Agreement. It offers a complete set of guidelines on what to look for and consider before you sign on the dotted line.
One of the advantages of doing the lease is that we have a consistent budget year to year to year, because one quarter of that lease is paid each year, so the budget is well planned and consistent.Thomas Edelblute
Anaheim Public Library, CA
Yes, being as technical as I am, I'd rather buy the machines. I hate the idea of not being able to, because I’ve talked to libraries [that] have done these leasing programs where the company comes in and puts a server in and puts in a bunch of same clients or something like that. But if there’s a problem, you’ve got to call them, and they’ve got to come out and fix it. So there are advantages to it. I could see if someone who doesn’t have someone in-house, like me, that would be a great way to go. Then you don’t have to worry about it; if it breaks, you call somebody, and they come out and fix it. But I’ve never considered the idea of leasing machines. I know that it used to be a big deal. I remember every time I’d go to buy a computer, they’d always be, like, ‘You could lease this today for $28.00 a month,’ or something like that. I never considered it.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis and Clark Library, MT
I have been talking to other libraries that lease computers, and that’s an option that I could be interested in looking at, but not in the current economy, because I could imagine leasing all of our machines and then not being able to renew the lease because we didn’t have the funding. At least if we buy the machines, we own them.Sia Stewart
Kingston Public Library, MA
Two YMCAs I work with each bought technology with a lease….In one instance involving a leased server, we had great difficulty closing the agreement and getting the equipment packed and ready to return in order to avoid lease-end buyout fees. The entailing phone tag and multiple emails caused us as much grief as being pushed to replace a server on the timetable dictated by the lease’s expiration date. Another lease problem I encountered concerned a photocopier; the person who set up the contract was no longer with the organization, and when the lease expired, no one knew to ask for a buyout option. As a result, the organization kept paying fees for an extra 18 months when the lease converted to a month-to-month agreement.Dave Welp
Information Technical Director, Scott Family YMCA
Shared Wisdom, Learning from Technology Mistakes
For more articles and suggestions on this topic, check out our Further Resources section.
We’ve covered some aspects of hardware buying in Leasing Computers and Other Equipment and Buying Refurbished Computers. To find out more about other key factors to consider when purchasing computers or other hardware devices, we suggest you check out our Buying Hardware Checklist tool.
We’ve talked about managing your vendor relationships, benefits of standardization and the value of state contracts, all of which apply when you’re buying software. Our Buying Software Checklist tool gives a more detailed look at factors to consider and resources on this topic.
Is an extended warranty on a computer really worth the extra money? The answer, as usual, is “It depends.”
When you’re buying a computer, a server or another piece of hardware, the manufacturer may try to cut costs by offering a substandard warranty. On home computers and consumer-grade equipment, a one-year warranty is standard, but you should expect a three-year warranty on most business-grade equipment (e.g., servers and workstations). Networking equipment such as routers and switches will often have a 5 year warranty. Furthermore, a good service plan or warranty on your mission-critical equipment can allow you to recover quickly and gracefully from a hardware failure, rather than waiting for days and weeks for a crucial replacement part.
Typically for the library, you know, the sort of standard warranty that comes with the computers…varies, depending upon the vendor. Most of the time, we don’t do extended warranties. We’ve had pretty good luck with the machines. Part of that is, you know, we’re able to actually replace parts that go bad. If a hard drive goes bad, we’ll just [replace it] and, you know, pay the cost of doing that…individual pieces. Probably the biggest replacement that needed to happen was [after] a lightning strike a few years ago. And essentially, the insurance took care of replacing all of those. So, you know, on a normal basis, no, we typically don’t go with the extended warranties or extended, extended warranties from the vendors.Brian Heils
Dubuque County Library, IA
We do. Some small stuff we can and do fix here, but the majority of the stuff, Dell, I know, is the only one I’ve had to actually use, they do next-day service, and they’re real good about getting out here and getting us going again for big stuff that we don’t want to tackle. Replacing motherboards and that sort of thing….Until they become OPACs, generally, our computers are all under warranty while they’re in general use. Once we move them down to the OPACs, that usually means they’re out of warranty, so if an OPAC dies, I just grab it. If it can be fixed easily, great; if not, then we switch out another one of the older computers and set it up.Robin Hastings
Missouri River Regional Library, MO
On warranties, I like the PC to have at least a three- to four-year warranty. Sometimes, depending on the season or the mood of the computer company, getting that extra fourth year can be really expensive. So I don’t always get that. But most of the business machines I buy come standard with a three-year warranty. And sometimes you can save a little bit of money if you shave off things like on-site repair, because a lot of times, they’ll want to sell you the warranty, and it’s an expensive one because they’ll send someone on-site to replace that power supply. And I don’t need them to send someone on-site. I can do that myself. Or a lot of times they have weird gold tech support or they have silver and platinum tech support with different prices, or they like to do things, like for an extra 50 bucks a year, you can keep your hard drive if it fails and we’ll send you a replacement, and then you can swap them out and mail them back. They have little ways you can shave more money off the contracts. But standard, I like three to four years with machines. Printers, I like to have a good five-year warranty; and you can push a printer a lot longer than a PC. And then [with] notebooks, I’ll go with three to four years as well.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, UT
We do that. We purchase the warranties. That has been a big help to us to have those warranties in place. We don't feel the stress financially if we know we've got warranties on them.LeeAnn Jesse
Adair County Public Library, KY
For additional articles about computer warranties, check out our Further Resources section.
Being open and adaptive to new technologies can be important to both your organization's mission and its ability to operate efficiently. Likewise, being flexible when it comes to individual preferences can help employees work better and encourage creativity.
Yet every technology you introduce to your nonprofit — whether you implement it organization wide or just on one computer — comes with hidden and not-so-hidden costs. Every new piece of software you add to your IT arsenal requires installation, maintenance, staff training, repair, patches, upgrades, and more.
How you address this tension between innovation on the one hand and the need for consistency on the other depends on your size, your organizational culture, how many IT staff you have, and how tech-savvy your staff is. While some organizations are very centralized — purging unsupported hardware or software as soon as it’s detected — other organizations eschew strict enforcement in favor of a more balanced, less time and resource-intensive approach. These organizations may allow staff to download unsupported software, for example, but refuse to troubleshoot it and will uninstall it if it conflicts with other programs. (Note that this more flexible route carries with it an increased risk of spyware and virus infections, however.)
For these reasons, it's important to adopt a standardization policy that fits your situation and needs. Though there are many benefits to centralizing your purchases, decide what makes the best sense for your organization before making sweeping changes to your current setup.
If you work in a library with multiple models and versions of software and equipment, the task of standardizing everything can be overwhelming. Starting from scratch by buying all-new equipment is probably not an option for most (if any) organizations, but there are a few steps you can take to standardize your equipment over time. We suggest you check out our Eight Smart Tips for Standardizing Your Equipment tool.
If your organization has traditionally allowed departments to choose and customize their own equipment, it can be difficult to convince employees to switch to a more centralized, standardization-friendly IT purchasing system. Yet there are ways to streamline your purchasing procedures without ignoring staff needs.
Hardware and software aren’t the only aspects of an IT system that you might consider streamlining. We’ve highlighted some of the advantages of standardizing everything from your operating system to your vendor relationships in the following sections.
It’s hard for techies to stay on top of new releases, updates and information when they’re supporting more than one operating system. Moreover, because each operating system supports different software, you may end up supporting two versions of every piece of software, or different pieces of software that serve the same purpose, if you fail to impose a standard operating system at your organization.
Dealing with too many vendors can be confusing from a billing, tech support and interpersonal perspective. You may be able to reduce the number of vendors you work with by purchasing your printers and servers from the same company that sells you desktop PCs. Technology resellers — businesses that buy equipment on your behalf — can also often be a good place to purchase hardware and software from different manufacturers from one central point of contact, simplifying the purchasing process.
Servers, printers, scanners, copiers and other pieces of hardware are cheaper and easier to support if you’re buying in bulk from the same vendor. However, only large organizations buy these items frequently enough to make bulk purchases. On the other hand, since successive models from the same manufacturer often have a lot in common, even small organizations can build on their existing skills by staying with the same company over time.
Disk-cloning software, also known as disk-imaging software, is a time-saving program that creates a sector-by-sector, low-level copy of an entire hard drive (or partition). Symantec Ghost and Acronis True Image are two well-known examples, but there are a few dozen others to choose from.
Disk-cloning software is primarily designed to save time, while backup software is designed to protect data files in case of a hard drive failure or other disaster. Also, backup software copies the contents of a drive at the file level, while disk-cloning software makes copies at the bit level. Disk-cloning programs can also provide some protection against data loss, but their main purpose is to capture a particular configuration of software and operating system. That snapshot can then be pushed out to another PC with similar hardware components (e.g., similar motherboard, similar processor) or to dozens, or even hundreds, of PCs.
Try to make your computers as consistent as possible. The more consistent and standard your hardware, the easier it is to implement a cloning procedure.
Well, I know Dell will actually take an image from us or make an image and do it there, but that's an extra charge. So when we got those 12 computers in, we took one and made it exactly the way we wanted to. And from that point, we took Ghost and made a ghost image from that. And we did those other machines in a day and a half. So we imaged 11 machines in less than nine hours. So it’s a pretty quick process that way. And if we had to do it by hand, one by one, it would take the three of us a good week to do those 12.Jarvis Sims
Hall County Library System, GA
Honestly, too, we don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out why something doesn’t work. We image everything, so if a desktop is down, we just image it, and it’s done in six minutes or whatever in our main building. If we do it over the [wide area network] WAN — I’m here at the main branch and let’s say I had to do one at Walton—it takes about 25 minutes. If there is some configuration issue, it’s just faster to reimage it.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
And I do my best to make sure that I’ve tried every possible combination, and within minutes after I put it out, someone finds something I didn’t think of; but that’s okay. Once that machine is configured and running, and I know it works well, I create an image of that machine on a portable hard drive, and then I can just clone it. I just push that image out and apply that image to all the other machines. So right now, every morning, the computers in the lab are all identical — same image, same hardware — and that works really well. I spend a good amount of time getting one machine working, and then I just copy and paste it to the other machines. Initially I do each machine one at a time in my office, because that way, I can test the image to make sure it worked. Sometimes, something goes weird. But yes, if someone calls me up and says, ‘Gosh, number 12 in the lab is not happy,’ I can go into my network software and say reimage this machine and then tell them, ‘Go ahead and restart the machine.’ And when it restarts, it’ll image itself.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis and Clark Library, MT
If you only buy a handful of computers every year, you could take what you get from the manufacturer, add all of your software and call it good. However, this doesn’t scale well. It can take hours to set up and configure all of your applications. And if you’re installing your own operating system as well, you’re looking at three or four additional hours. Exhausted by the tedious swapping of setup CDs, many mid-sized and large libraries use disk-cloning software to automate this process. If you would like to find out more about disk-cloning analysis, check out our Further Resources section.
Whether you’re rolling out a single new computer or a hundred, you need to first ask yourself some questions about the who, what, where, when, why and how behind your deployment decision.
To help in your deployment efforts, we recommend you review our Deploying New Computers — What to Ask and Why tool.
Software is the big payoff. It’s the reason we all use a computer to begin with, but it can also be a huge source of frustration and wasted time. To minimize your trouble, consider how you’ll address software testing, deployment, asset management and patch management.
Ideally we’d hire someone to spend weeks testing every new application we install in our organizations, but realistically, we often have to rely on the manufacturer for due diligence and hope for the best. And no matter how much testing you’ve done, your patrons and staff will still find some glitches that you and the vendor didn’t catch. To mitigate the effects of these problems, you can roll out your new software slowly. Install it on a few targeted computers and let those end users know that they’re your guinea pigs. Or install it for an entire department. If any problems arise, you’ll hear about it from a few individuals rather than your entire organization.
Walking from machine to machine with an install CD is “so 1998.” As with many other routine activities, software installation can be largely automated these days. Systems management software is a type of software that bundles together several different utilities that can make an administrator’s life easier. For example, it lets you specify standard, scripted answers to all of the questions that normally come up during the setup wizard. You generally roll up these preferences into an installer file (aka a software package) and then deploy it to all of your computers. This is sometimes called an unattended installation because once you start the process, it finishes on its own without your intervention. With most systems management software, you don’t even have to visit the computers you’re trying to install to. After you’ve created the installer package, the systems management software will push it out to the computers you specify and start the process automatically. Alternatively, you can let end users initiate the install process. This way, staff who don’t need the software won’t waste a valuable license. Systems management software also handles a wide variety of other administrative tasks, such as patch management, asset management and network monitoring. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the Further Resources section and/or take a look at the Wikipedia article on the topic and the accompanying list of software.
Software installers (often used with Windows systems) and package managers (often used with Linux/Unix systems) can also help you with software rollouts, but they’re not as powerful as a systems management suite. They allow you to pre-configure your software and create a standard installation, but you usually can’t push the package out so that it runs automatically on all your machines. Instead, you have to carry the installation files around on a CD or download them from a network location. InstallShield and Wise Package Studio are two programs of this type.
Whatever system you have in place for tracking software licenses, you need to activate it when you install new software. As soon as possible, record the number of licenses you’ve purchased, the number of copies you’ve installed and the location of the installed copies. Also, be sure to keep track of your installation CDs, passwords and license keys.
In between major releases of a program, software vendors release dozens of small patches to fix problems and close security loopholes. Some applications can be set to automatically download and install these patches, but IT departments often reject this approach due to concerns about compatibility. Before they allow a new piece of code into the organization, IT wants to make sure that it won’t corrupt the operating system or cause critical software to malfunction. Also, depending on how the computers are set up, end users may be able to turn off these automatic updates. Patch management software is a more centralized, reliable solution. Again, some programs are designed specifically for patch management, but, in many cases, patch management software will come as part of a systems management software suite.
If you’re interested in learning more, go to our Further Resources section. Check out How to Handle Patch Management and the patch management articles on Microsoft’s Web site. Also, WindowsSecurity.com has reviewed some of the better-known patch management tools.
Once you create the auto-install package, you can push it out to multiple computers at a time, so you could do a whole library in one sweep, and supposedly, the thing can also be scheduled to run, say, in the middle of the night when the computers are thawed anyway. Although I’ve had limited success for whatever reason. Sometimes it runs, and sometimes it doesn’t. I just haven’t had a lot of time to play with it, but if I ever get it down, I could actually set the thing to do an upgrade in the middle of the night, and you come in the next morning, and they’re upgraded and ready to go.Rick Moody
Birmingham Public Library, AL
Our patches are done centrally, and we use Microsoft’s patch management software…The Windows updates and the antivirus updates are automatically updated through a server on that network that is updated via the Web, and then all of the public terminals are updated via that server.Jim Buston
City of Auburn, AL
Novell ZENworks is an application initially designed for desktop management. And they’ve added to it over the years, and now it has many different aspects to it. So, for instance, if you were to come and sit down at one of my computers right now, after you get through our PC reservation system and you get logged onto the computer, you will see an empty desktop. There are no icons on the desktop. The Start menu has nothing on it but Log Off. And the only thing that will open on the machine is a window. And that window is from Novell’s ZENworks — it’s called Application Monitor. And so I, as an administrator, create basically an icon. I’ll create an icon for Internet Explorer, for instance. And I will tell the network that anybody logged into either this computer or anybody logged into the network as this user gets this icon. And they can’t have anything else but this icon. So, like, right now, you’d sit down at my computer, you’d see a window, and in that window would be the icons that I say they can have. So there’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Internet Explorer. In some cases, [there are] games, and I create those icons. I tell the Application Monitor window which icons to display. And I can say stuff like, if the executable for Word doesn’t exist, don’t show the icon, because otherwise, people would be clicking on it and getting an error message.Matt Beckstrom
Also, I can do things like application updating. So if they release a new version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, I can create a package on my desk and say this is the update to the Acrobat Reader. Now go ahead and do that to all 500 of my computers. I don’t have 500 computers, but if I did it would go and install itself on all those machines. Or update it on all those machines. Or I could actually uninstall applications remotely, too.
It also does imaging on the PCs, so I can build a workstation, put all the applications on it and then make a copy of it on a remote disk. I just plug it in and say, ‘Now push this image down, push this image down,’ so that I can clone machines really fast. And they’re all identical, which is nice. It also does remote management so that I can connect PCs remotely. It also does policy management. And that’s what I use for our public workstations. I can create a policy package [that] is basically a bunch of registry entries. And I can tell the system, ‘Okay, anybody on this computer gets this policy.’ And then I can change the policy up here from my desk, and every PC who logs in that uses that policy gets those changes. It also does application and hardware inventory so that I can do a quick glance and find out how many Dell GX520s I’ve got, how much RAM is in them [and] what applications are on them. I can do license metering, so I can see, oh, I only purchased 20 licenses of Microsoft Word, but I’m using 22, so I’m out of compliance. You know? And it does a lot more than that, but that’s the beginning.
Lewis & Clark Public Library, UT
Adding new software or upgrading software on computers that you’ve already deployed is a process with its own set of variables. We’ve included additional resources on the topic of software patching and installation that you might find useful.
Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager and Novell’s ZENworks are two popular systems management suites. Qualified organizations can purchase System Center Configuration Manager from TechSoup for $52. In a Windows Active Directory environment, you can also use Group Policy and MSI files to deploy software, though this requires some in-depth knowledge to accomplish.
There are so many things to consider when buying library technology. Where are the best deals — the city, the county or the state? Perhaps cooperative negotiations are the best way to go for you. Then there’s the actual job of deployment and installation. You’ve got to plan ahead for that. Fortunately, we’ve provided a few tools to help you in this endeavor and make the whole process a bit easier.
It’s impossible to predict the future, especially when dealing with technology. Having a good technology plan, however, will serve as a map for your journey. TechAtlas is a free online tool for library technology assessment and planning.
If your library receives e-rate funds, then you know that it’s necessary to have a current technology plan for your library. The plan you create in TechAtlas can be used to fulfill that requirement.
Tech Atlas includes many features from which a library can pick and choose. Potential uses include the following:
If your library needs to keep older computers and use them as long a possible, here are few points to keep in mind:
For some libraries, the simple act of restarting the computers may be the most effective maintenance and troubleshooting technique…thanks to disk-protection software.
Disk-protection is a way to revert back to the way a computer was configured at a particular point in time. Ideally, you want to start off with a solid configuration that has all the elements to serve your patrons well. This is the configuration that disk-protection will revert back to when you restart your computer.
The chart on the following pages compares some of the better-known titles that are currently in use in small libraries. They have been grouped by family, based on the most prominent patron computers’ management features. The pricing and support terms reflect discounts for public library licensing and 15 workstations (where applicable).
|TYPE OF SOFTWARE||SOFTWARE PUBLISHER AND TITLE||APPROXIMATE COST||INCLUDED SUPPORT, MAINTENANCE AND SOFTWARE UPGRADE TERMS|
|Patron Management offers session time and print management, workstation reservations, patron computer usage reporting||Librarica CASSIE|
Supports: Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://www.librarica.com/features.html
|$995 for 5 workstations|
$1,990 for 10 workstations
$2,485 for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help documentation support (add additional years for 15% of licensing cost per year)|
|CybraryN Library Solutions1|
Supports: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.cybraryn.com/Solutions/
|$774.95 for 5 workstations|
$1074.95 for 10 workstations
$2,519 for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help, documentation and remote assistance support (add additional years for $375, according to number of workstations|
Supports: Linux-based thin-client w/ included hardware
Feature list: http://userful.com/products/library-ds
|$1,740/year for 5 workstations|
$3,480/year for 10 workstations
$5,220/year for 15 workstations
(all rates based on 3-year term agreement)
|Phone, email, online help, documentation, and remote assistance support|
|Fortres Grand Time Limit Manager|
Supports: Windows 2000, XP, 2003
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/tlm/tlm.htm
|$125 for 5 workstations|
$250 for 10 workstations
$195 for 25 workstations
|Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support|
|Disk-Protection preserves a computer’s baseline configuration and restores it upon restarting or logoff||Faronics Deep Freeze STD|
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/deepfreeze.asp
|$219 for 5 workstations|
$236 for 10 workstations
$334.90 for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add additional years for $44, up to three years)|
|Faronics Deep Freeze Mac|
Supports: Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/DFMac.asp
|$330 for 5 workstation|
$364 for 10 workstations
$516 for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add additional years for $68, up to three years)|
|Fortres Grand Clean Slate|
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/cls/cls.htm
|$295 for 5 workstations|
$590 for 10 workstations
$335 for 15 workstations
|Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support|
|Centurion Technologies CompuGuard CornerStone|
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.centuriontech.com/products/compuguardcornerstone
|$462 for 15 workstations||One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (additional years at 10% of license cost per year)|
|Centurion Technologies MacShield Universal|
Supports: Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4
Feature list: http://www.centuriontech.com/products/macshielduniversal/
|$453.75 for 15 workstations||One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (additional years at 10% of license cost per year)|
|Workstation Lock-Down restricts patron access to a limited number of functions||Microsoft Windows SteadyState2,5|
Supports: Windows XP
Feature list: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/default.mspx
|Downloadable for free||Online help, documentation, and discussion forum support.|
|Fortres Grand Fortres 101|
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/f101/f101.htm
|$295 for 5 workstations|
$590 for 10 workstations
$335 for 15 workstations
|Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support|
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/Winselect.asp
|$245 for 5 workstations|
$490 for 5 workstations
$755 for 15 workstations
|Through next version (typically two year lifecycle per version) phone, email, online help, and documentation support|
|Application Launch Restriction prevents patrons from launching unapproved applications||Faronics Anti-executable standard|
Supports: Windows 95,98,ME, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/AntiExec.asp
|$179 for 5 workstations|
$236 for 10 workstations
$398 for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add on up to three years for additional fees, according to number of workstations)|
|Beyond Logic Trust-No-Exe|
Supports: Windows NT, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.beyondlogic.org/consulting/trust-no-exe/trust-no-exe.htm
|Free downloadable||Online help, and documentation support|
|Web Browser Customization modifies the way Internet Explorer looks/locks down its functionality||TeamSoftware Solutions Public Web Browser|
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://www.teamsoftwaresolutions.com/
|$125 for one year, renewable site license||Email, pager, online help, and documentation and discussion forum support|
|Workstation Remote Control and Administration allows library staff to see/interact with the workstation desktop to make changes, troubleshoot, or assist a patron||GoToMyPC|
Supports: Windows 2000, XP, Vista
Feature list: https://www.gotomypc.com/en_US/personalFAB.tmpl?_sid=209346628%3AFE2219D...
|$777/year for 5 workstations|
$1554/year for 10 workstations
$2,025/year for 15 workstations
|One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support|
Supports: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Mac OS 9 and 10.x, Unix, Linux
Feature list: (various sites, e.g., http://www.realvnc.com/)
|Free download||Online help, and documentation support|
Supports: Windows 98, 200,0, XP, 2003
Feature list: https://secure.logmein.com/go.asp?page=products_free
|Free for LogMeIn Free version||Phone (leave message for call back), email, online help, and documentation support|
|Patron Privacy Data Cleanup can clean patron tracks||CCleaner|
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://ccleaner.com/features.aspx
|Free download||Online help documentation and discussion forum support|
A note about the listed costs: These are prices as reported by the respective vendors in April, 2007. Prices are subject to change, please contact vendor for current rates. In addition, you should always discuss your specific situation with the vendor to get the most appropriate package and pricing for your library.
1Includes some workstation lockdown features
2Includes disk-protection functionality
3Includes some patron management features
5Requires Windows XP Service Pack 2
If you apply for E-rate reimbursements, be sure to check the Eligible Services List at http://www.usac.org/sl/tools/eligible-services-list.aspx before you order products or services. Sometimes a particular hub or router is eligible, while a similar product, but a different make and model, is not. E-rate does not fund redundancies — for example, if you need only one server and buy the second server as a backup or “fallback,” E-rate will not fund it.
The Eligible Services List provides guidance regarding what products and services may be able to receive E-rate reimbursements. It is organized by category of service and revised and updated each year in advance of the application window.
Here are some general E-rate rules to consider by funding category.
Items that must be completed on a regular basis to maintain computers that ARE locked down and disk-protected.
* Monthly time does not include hours required on a quarterly and annual basis.
|AREA||WEEKLY||MONTHLY||QUARTERLY||ANNUALLY||MONTHLY TIME REQUIRED (PER COMPUTER)||OUTSIDE CONSULTANT @ $50 PER HR.|
|Security||1 hr. 30 min.||$75.00|
|TOTAL MONTHLY PER COMPUTER (after installation)||3 hours||$150.00|
|Lock-down and disk-protection software install||One time installation: 6 hours for first computer, 2 hours for each additional computer (not counted in total above)|
Approx. $45 - $90 for first computer, $30 for each additional computer
Note: if you have Windows XP, you can use the free Windows SteadyState for locking down and disk-protection.
Items that must be completed on a regular basis to maintain computers that are NOT locked down and do NOT have disk-protection.
* Monthly time does not include hours required on a quarterly and annual basis.
|AREA||WEEKLY||MONTHLY||QUARTERLY||ANNUALLY||MONTHLY TIME REQUIRED (PER COMPUTER)||OUTSIDE CONSULTANT @ $50 PER HR.|
|TOTAL MONTHLY PER COMPUTER||16 hrs.||$800.00|
|STEP||ACTION||TO LEARN MORE|
|1||Determine if this is the right time to make this purchase.||The NPower guide mentioned previously offers five criteria for deciding if you’re ready for a particular technology project. See the “Assessing Feasibility” section.|
|2||If the project involves considerable time and labor, decide if you should outsource it. In other words, do you need a vendor…or should you keep the project in-house?||Summit Collaborative offers guidance for answering this question in its article Determining Whether to Outsource.|
|3||Figure out your organization’s needs. What are you trying to change in your organization by buying this product or service? What are the outcomes you’re trying to achieve?||The article What Do You Need from a Provider? can help you define your needs up- front. If you create a formal requirements document (aka a needs assessment) that defines your required and desired outcomes, you can use this as the basis of your RFP and your vendor evaluation matrix.|
|4||Determine if you should write an RFP. Call your city attorney, IT department or purchasing agency and ask for the policy on RFPs. Frequently, RFPs are required above a certain dollar amount (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000).||The article The RFP Process: An Overview explains the difference between an RFP (request for proposal), an RFI (request for information) and an RFQ (request for quotation), and provides guidelines to help you decide between a formal and an informal RFP process. Remember, by buying off a state contract, you can often satisfy local requirements and avoid the tedious process of writing your own RFP. See the following “State Contracts” section for more information.|
|5||Become an RFP pro. There are a number of excellent resources that can help you get started.||The articles Writing an RFP and The RFP: Writing One and Responding to One provide helpful RFP checklists to get you started. Beyond the Template: Writing an RFP That Works offers additional advice on making your RFP stand out from the crowd.|
|6||Research possible vendors.||TechSoup's Nine Tips for Navigating the RFP Research Phase recommends places to turn to when you’re researching a vendor’s track record, while TechRepublic's Follow These Guides on the Road to a Valuable Vendor Relationship emphasizes the importance of checking a vendor’s references.|
|7||Develop vendor selection criteria (see the following “Vendor Selection Criteria Specific to Libraries” section).|
|8||Negotiate and write the contract. Work with an individual or department in your organization that is the expert in contract rules and regulations. Turn to them first so that you abide by the relevant laws and policies. However, for large, complex, important projects, make sure you and your colleagues are involved in drawing up the contract.|
|9||Manage your vendor relationships. You can’t just sign a contract and then ignore your vendor.||For tips on how to keep that relationship running smoothly, read Marc and Beth’s article on Techsoup.|
|10||Evaluate your vendor relationships. Examine the market and your library’s needs on a regular basis. The best vendor last year won’t necessarily be the best vendor this year. On the flip side, a long-term vendor relationship can pay off in service and perks. Also, a well-written contract often includes benchmarks that you can use later to evaluate the vendor’s performance.|
Buy off state contracts. In most states, the government has negotiated deals with a variety of vendors, obtaining steep discounts that local government agencies can take advantage of. You can buy hardware, software, supplies, even cars off state master contracts. For non-specialized hardware and software, the prices on the master contract frequently beat the prices you can negotiate for yourself. However, you probably won’t find highly specialized items, such as print management software or ILS software. Not every state has this great arrangement, but most do. Also, the details vary widely from state to state. If you don't know anything about state contracts and you want to learn more, get in touch with your state library or state procurement office, or do a Google search for “state contract" and your state initial.
Buy off the city or county contract. In some cases, you’ll be partnering with other municipal agencies, whether you want to or not. If the library is under the legal authority of the town government and local policy dictates that everyone has to buy computers through the IT department, that’s what you’ll do. However, if your library is administered independently, it could still be worthwhile to meet with the town’s IT folks. They might be able to negotiate a better deal for you than you can get on your own, or they might have some good advice about bargaining with vendors.
Let a library cooperative negotiate for you. In many areas, the state library or a statewide library cooperative negotiates steep discounts for members and constituents. Some of these cooperatives only negotiate the licensing of online databases from vendors such as Proquest and Thomson-Gale. Others focus on a wider range of library-specific products, such as books, magazines, furniture, preservation materials, barcode scanners, etc. In other words, these library cooperatives often complement the work done by state government purchasing agencies (see the first bullet item), though there might be some overlap. You’re more likely to find desktop computers, servers and other commodity technology on the state contracts. The Colorado Library Consortium and Minitex are two examples of consortia that negotiate on behalf of member libraries.
OCLC regional service providers. If your library system or your state library has paid for membership in an OCLC regional consortium, you’re probably eligible for discounts on library- related supplies and services. Of course, these organizations begin by negotiating deals with OCLC itself, but they also negotiate with other vendors. For the most, part the regional service providers represent multiple states. BCR, Amigos and Solinet are prominent examples. Wikipedia has a full list.
Set up your own cooperative purchasing arrangement with other libraries in your area, local colleges, K12 schools or area nonprofits. It can be time-consuming to create a consortium, so ask yourself if the long-term benefits outweigh the initial effort. Also, talk to lawyers and accountants who know the local laws and regulations. They can probably guide you to templates that you can use as a basis for your purchasing agreements. For more information on using local partnerships to buy broadband and other telecommunication services, see Internet Access and ISPs.
Do your homework and read the terms of the lease carefully before signing. The following are some questions you’ll want to consider:
|Pay attention to your users.||In most libraries, staff and patrons aren’t using resource-intensive applications, so you don’t need the latest, greatest, fastest computers. However, if you’re buying machines for teen gaming or video editing, you may need something more robust.|
|Think about obsolescence.||Remember, every few years, Microsoft releases a new, resource-intensive operating system (e.g., Windows Vista) and then stops supporting one of its older operating systems. So it’s important to strike the right balance. For a quick take on buying desktop machines, see A Simple Guide to Buying Computers. If you want a more detailed discussion, read Desktop Computers for Your Business.|
|For labs/public computing environments, consider business-model computers rather than consumer computers.||Business-grade machines tend to be more durable.|
|Ask some questions about the vendors on your shortlist.||It’s often hard to get a reliable answer to this last question, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.|
|Find out if the company offers imaging and installation services.||All of these services cost extra money, but they’re worth considering if your IT department is short-staffed. For more information, see Deploying New Computers and Disk-Cloning in Libraries.|
|Ask about vendor support during installation.||If you’ll be installing the equipment yourself, find out what kind of support the vendor is willing to offer during installation.|
|Ask about vendor support after installation.||For more information, see the following section on warranties and service plans.|
|Determine whether you should do business with the manufacturer or with a hardware reseller.||A reseller with multiple manufacturer relationships can sometimes simplify your life by serving as a single point of contact, handling multiple purchases on your behalf and presenting you with a consolidated bill. A reseller might also be closer to you geographically and better able to offer personalized service. On the other hand, resellers will charge you extra for this added value. For details, read Where to Buy a PC and What Is a Value-Added Reseller.|
|Check out the vendor’s disposal policy.||For more information, see Getting Rid of Old Computers Responsibly.|
|Do some research and testing.||If possible, download a trial software application on a machine that closely matches the typical library computer, so you can see if it’s compatible with your existing hardware and software. For major software purchases, ask librarians and patrons from different departments and backgrounds to help with testing.|
|Look at TechSoup Stock to see if you qualify for discounted software.||TechSoup only charges an administration fee, so you’re only paying between 5 and 20 percent of the retail price. All public libraries in the U.S. and Canada qualify for this program, and almost all Microsoft titles are included.|
|Pay attention to the software license agreement (sometimes known as the End-User License Agreement or EULA).||Some license agreements will actually tell you that by using the software, you’ve agreed to install spyware on your computer. While this is more of a problem with free software, it’s always a good idea to run through the license agreement. Since most of us don’t have time to wade through each EULA, check out EULAlyzer, a utility that examines each agreement for key words and phrases.|
|For major pieces of software, such as an ILS system, seek expert advice before signing a contract or license agreement.||You’re tying your library into this agreement for years to come, and since this is such a large purchase, you may have more leverage to renegotiate some of the terms. Check out How to Make Software Contract Negotiations Work for Your Business and Reviewing Software License Agreements for more suggestions.|
|Know your vendor.||10 Things You Should Ask Before Buying Software has some questions you can pose to your vendor.|
|If you’re buying a large quantity of a particular software title, investigate volume licenses and site licenses.||You can often receive discounts for this type of bulk purchase, and software that comes with a site license is generally easier to install and administer. Usually, volume discounts start somewhere between three and ten copies of an application, but it varies from vendor to vendor. Save Money with Volume Software Licensing has more information. Also take a look at Microsoft’s documentation on volume license keys.|
|If you have a system for tracking your license agreements and installation keys, be sure to input the information about your new purchase.||This is discussed in more detail in Asset Management.|
|Keep your IT department in the loop from the beginning.||They’ll be the ones supporting the software and will probably play a role in training staff. They can also help you test the software.|
|Centralize software purchases as much as possible to avoid the proliferation of different applications that serve the same purpose and different versions of the same application.||For more information, see our section on Standardizing Your IT Infrastructure.|
|WHAT TO ASK…||…AND WHY|
|Who will prepare and deploy your computers?||In most libraries, the in-house IT staff deploys the computers, but if your IT department is understaffed, you can always hire a third party to help you. The computer manufacturer or reseller can handle part or all of the preparation. Finally, to a limited degree, library staff can assist if they’re savvy enough.|
|How will you install the operating system and the core software?||Disk-cloning is the easiest way to do this when you’re dealing with more than a handful of computers.|
|Do you need to install any special software or make other tweaks?||Disk-cloning programs will help deploy a core, standard configuration. However, some librarians work with special applications. For instance, one person needs accounting software, while another needs graphic design software. Also, certain settings are unique to each computer (e.g., computer name, IP address, SID and mapped network drives).|
|Is there any special hardware that you need to install and deliver along with the computer itself?||For example, circulation computers often need barcode readers and receipt printers, and some users need their own local printer or scanner.|
|Do you need to migrate data from the old computer to the new computer?||In the best of all possible worlds, library staff save their files to a server, and the IT department backs it up on a regular basis. However, some users insist on saving their data to the desktop or the local hard drive. Before you swap computers, make sure the user has backed up all his or her data to a secure location.|
|When will you deploy the new computers?||Timing is especially important if you’re replacing computers for an entire department or library branch. For larger installations, you should ask the IT department to do their work at night or on the weekend.|
|Did you get what you paid for?||Consider spot-checking your new computers to make sure you received the components and software that you actually ordered. Run TechAtlas’ inventory tool or Belarc Advisor to see how much memory and hard disk space your computer has. Did you receive the processors, network cards and graphics cards that you requested? Are any programs missing?|
|Should you document all the decisions you’ve made previously?||Deploying new computers is a complex process. Even if you’re the only one involved, it can be difficult to remember all the steps. If you’re working with multiple staff members and/or multiple organizations, you need to write it all down. Be especially careful to note what software and hardware you’ve included with each new computer. Though you can use a word-processing document or spreadsheet for this, you should also consider some sort of asset tracking software.|
In this section, we address the day-to-day management of library technology. In other words, once you have it, what do you do with it all? How do you keep it running? How do you facilitate communication between frontline staff and IT personnel? How do you hire the best available techies? What do you do with old computers? How do you document your IT environment and keep track of your hardware and software? Should you plan in advance for upgrades and replacements?
If you’re new to managing public computers, you may want to start by looking at A Cookbook for Small and Rural Libraries, especially Chapter Two. You’ll find solid information there about maintenance checklists, hard drive lock-down tools and related topics. If you’re interested in PC reservation software and print management software, check out Chapters 5 and 6 of Recipes for a 5-Star Library. You can find them both on our Cookbook home page.
There are many different ways in which you can manage and automate your help-desk…your approach has much to do with your current library environment and available resources. Do you have policies and procedures in place to help your staff handle tech support issues? Are you large enough that you could benefit from some help-desk management software? Do you have a regular maintenance routine for your computers? Are you making an effort to standardize your IT infrastructure? Our intent here is to give you the information and tools you need to evaluate your help-desk support needs and take appropriate action.
To help you better understand your tech support situation, we have included a Library Tech Support Evaluation Sheet.
We just have to figure it out. We are a very small library, and we don’t have some of the services that bigger towns have. Last resort, there is one place in town we could hire a technician from, but the library’s budget doesn’t have a lot of money for things like that. So usually what I’ve done in the past, if there’s just something that I can’t figure out, I call other librarians from surrounding areas and ask them if something like that has happened to them and what they’ve done. For instance, we actually got a grant from Gates, and one of the librarians from Miles City came and helped me set up the computers because I was new. Well, I wasn’t new, but my job had changed, and I went from cataloging to more of the technology part of what our library does. And she came down. She helped us. It was phenomenal and amazing. It was Hannah Nash from Miles City. We have such great contact and support from other libraries that if I can’t figure it out myself, that’s how we usually get things done.Dawn Kingstad
Glendive Public Library, MT
It can be very frustrating thinking, “All I want is this one little thing fixed.” But he knows that we’re functioning okay without it. It’s not going to cause the system to shut down. And he may have another client whose system is shutting down. So we keep saying, 'Would you please hire more people? Hire some more people, we need more time.' And I think the distance is also a problem. If he were just down the road or 20 minutes away, that would be really helpful. But it’s an hour and a half to two hours for him to get here from his office. So it isn’t just an hour quick fix. It’s an hour quick fix plus three-hour round trip drive.Drusilla Carter
Carter Chesterfield County Library, SC
I do most of the tech support because we have an extremely small budget for technology. My IT guy also works for some of the rural schools in our area, and he lives 20 miles away from here as well, so he’s not readily available. And so I do a good majority of the IT work and then when I run into things that I just can’t deal with, or don’t have the time to deal with we call him in and usually he’ll take the computer off premises and take a look at it. I try not to call him very often because we have $1,500 a year for tech maintenance. And then through another grant from the state I have $1,200, so altogether I have $2,700 for technology for the entire year.Michelle Fenger
Ronan City Library, MT
In other consortiums where I've worked at it seems to me that it's a pretty typical model that the central office or the consortium wants to have a single point of contact for technical concerns at each branch library so that there's coordination and communication. It's also, I think, more of a 'train the trainer' kind of model. The local tech person takes on some responsibility and feels empowered to train staff at their local branch. They're all regular library staff. Here, our tech person, she has many, many responsibilities but I believe that she just kind of bubbled up to the top of the heap as the person that's most interested and most adept at technology.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
To find out more, see the Further Resources section.
Anyone who’s tried to support the computers in a multibranch library system will sing the praises of remote desktop software (aka remote control software). Ten years ago, librarians often had to drive 60 miles or more to reset a password or download a software patch at a branch library. Remote control applications allow you to establish a connection with a computer anywhere in your library system, see what’s happening on that computer and control it using your own mouse and keyboard. Of course, the user of that computer has to give you permission to do this, or you need to have the administrative password. Also, there usually needs to be some client software installed on that remotely controlled PC. Finally, you may need to open some ports in the firewall at your central location and at the branch libraries.
You can buy standalone remote desktop software, but it often comes bundled with operating systems and software suites. The following are some commonly used tools:
For us, the cost really is not in the staff time of being there and doing the task. For us, being over 5,000 square miles, the cost is the travel. So we’ve implemented Remote Assistant and Remote Desktop for our staff so we can actually go in and do things on the staff computers that we need to do. I figured that it takes at least $1,000 just to drive to and from every one of our branches one time. Remote Assistant is used for troubleshooting, because we like to be able to see what the user sees. We try not to do things for them. We try to say, ‘Move your mouse up to the left and click on that.’ That’s how you need to do it, because hopefully, they’ll remember next time, and then they won’t need to call us. It’ll be faster for them if they can remember and are able to do it on their own.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, MN
But we can remote into any of the machines. We have that set up. We’re all domain admins here in our shop. We set it up so that we’ll have access to anywhere on the domain. And we can essentially either use something like VNC access or we can actually remote into the machine, since everything has Windows XP right now. We use the Remote Assistant if it’s a staff person [who is] having a problem or a patron [who is] on one of the clients and staff has tried to assist but couldn’t finish it up. They couldn’t figure out the problem. We have them do a Remote Assistant request to us, and we always have someone here all the hours we’re open.Michael Fettes
Alachua County Library, FL
In fact, we have started paying for a new service for us to utilize with those libraries, but, again, they need to have a usable, workable Internet and a usable, workable browser. It’s called LogMeIn. We set up a session on our end, like here at the office, online, and then give them the key over the phone. And they’ll take their browser with the machine that they’re having trouble with and connect to the site LogMeIn and use that key, and that’ll establish a remote access session between us and them. I can take control of their machine. It’s kind of like pcAnywhere.Adam Beatty
And we do use the remote access for administrative login to their server and do maintenance from there. But I have to actually be out there to do some of the work ‘cause a lot of it’s been upgrades or physical repair, and the machine doesn’t work.
North Texas Regional Library System, TX
If you are looking for a few more resources on this topic, check out the Further Resources section.
Communication between IT technicians and frontline staff breaks down occasionally, especially in mid-sized and large libraries. Frontline staff submit incomplete information about the problems they’re experiencing, and IT staff sometimes lose track of help requests. Help-desk management software offers several features to help improve communication. Most use a form of some kind to elicit detailed information from staff about where and when and how a problem started occurring. When someone submits a request, it goes into a queue so that no one gets preferential treatment. IT managers can distribute the incidents to different technicians, or the software can handle that automatically. As the problem approaches resolution, the techie can update the status and send messages to the person who submitted the request. If IT staff document their fixes, the help-desk software becomes a knowledge repository.
Help-desk software almost always has some form of asset tracking tool as well so you can tie each request to a particular machine. We discuss IT asset management software separately, but the two are often sold together. Also, you might find help-desk software in suite of systems management software. Whether you’re investigating an application suite or individual pieces of software, make sure that the components work well with one another.
For a clearer picture of the types of help-desk software available to you, download and review our Help-Desk Software Options tool.
There’s another open-source product I’m using called OneOrZero, which is a help-desk or a task management system. It’s an open-source application, and you can download it for free, but they have a unique model where the most recent version is for subscribers only, and the previous version is always free. And I did subscribe to that, so we pay, say, $35 a year. So we're a subscriber. Since I pay them, I get support directly from them. I can contact them, their support team, and get support.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
The SYS-Aid Help Desk…I’m going to start that here as well so we can keep better track of problems, because right now people are just emailing me, and I’m getting all these emails about a problem, and it’s hard to keep up with it. So I’ve already downloaded the help-desk, and it’s just a matter of me setting it up and getting all the branch managers the accounts so that they can keep up with what’s going on. It’s full-blown help-desk software, and I’m using [the version] where you have to actually have an account. So the branch manager will be given an account to access this help-desk and [can] submit problems under certain designated categories. They will be issued a help-desk ticket, and that way, we can keep up with what’s going on.Jaketha Farmer
Bossier Parish Libraries, LA
If you are looking for more information on this topic, check out the Further Resources section.
As with any other department, your IT department becomes more difficult to manage the more it grows. If you’re the only employee at your library, you probably don’t need formal help-desk policies. However, if there are 500 employees in your system, it’s more important to have some written procedures.
A simple first-come, first-serve queue makes sense for some problems. But if your web-site is offline and one of your catalogers is having trouble changing his desktop background image, which problem should you address first? OK, that’s easy, but other questions are more difficult to answer. For example, is a manager’s request automatically given a higher priority? If your Web server and your mail server are both giving you trouble, which one should you fix first?
Help-desk policies often define different “impact levels.” For instance, a problem that affects multiple users or the entire library has a higher impact than something affecting one or two librarians. A problem with no workaround has a higher impact than one with a workaround.
Furthermore, help-desks frequently distinguish between problem tickets, which render a critical component inoperable, and project tickets, such as the installation of new software or the creation of a new user account. Problem tickets usually receive a higher priority.
A Service Level Agreement, or SLA, goes beyond a simple statement of priorities. An SLA includes formal goals for your IT department to shoot for in terms of reliability and response times. For instance, an SLA might specify that the library’s web site will be available 99 percent of the time.
Even if you don’t institute service-level standards for every aspect of your tech support, you can establish standards for some of the more important elements. For example, you might associate a standard response time with each of the impact levels mentioned previously. Impact level I (i.e., top-priority incidents) will be resolved within a day.
Of course, you have to talk to your IT department to find out which goals are reasonable and which ones aren’t. Also, you should only set goals for the outcomes you know how to measure. Don’t promise a one-day turnaround on an issue if there isn’t a system in place to track turnaround times and report on them.
The technology plan also included a Service Level Agreement with city IT, essentially saying, ‘This is the level of service that we’d expect from IT, and this is what the library staff can do, what our responsibilities are in relation to library technology equipment and how far we’d go for the public.’ And there’s a point where we have to say, ‘Okay, we need to call in IT to take care of this.’ And the Service Level Agreement guarantees a response time and availability of library computers. If something breaks, you need to be here within so many hours, so many days, depending on the emergency, and that helped us have a better relationship with the city IT because it sort of said, ‘Here’s really our need,’ and it kind of woke them up as far as understanding what our needs are, and they’ve been more responsive in doing that, and with the agreement, it’s just been a lot better.Jeff Scott
Casa Grande Public Library, AZ
We don’t necessarily have anybody [who] has been having special training at each branch, but as of last week, I required all branches to submit what I called an IT chain of command instead of everybody coming to me about problems, support staff, or managers and different people. It got to the point where if I repaired a problem and told anybody who was working at the desk at that particular time, ‘Hey, this problem is fixed,’ I still had people coming to me constantly, constantly, constantly. So I told them to put together an IT chain of command. The number one person on the list must be the branch manager.That is the person who is responsible for the technology at their branch. They have to know what’s going on, when is it going on, how is it going on, has it been fixed, has it not been fixed. Basically, they are responsible for keeping up with IT in their branch. They also have the opportunity to put on a second and a third person. The second person would just take the place of the branch manager when they’re not there. If that second person is not there, the third person I encouraged them to put [is] someone who works over the weekend. All three of them are supposed to work together, and they are supposed to know what’s going on. And those are the only people [who] I talk to at that branch as far as technology is concerned. Nobody else can come to me and ask me about what’s going on. The branch manager is also the person who is going to have access to the help-desk.Jaketha Farmer
Bossier Parish Libraries, LA
In other consortiums where I’ve worked, it seems to me that it’s a pretty typical model that central office or the consortium or regional headquarters or whatever wants to have a single point of contact at the branch library so that there’s coordination and communication. [Also,] [I think] it’s more of a ‘train the trainer’ kind of model so that the branch person then takes on some responsibility and feels empowered to train staff at their local branch. They’re regular library staff. Here, our tech person, she has many, many responsibilities, but I believe that she just kind of bubbled up to the top of the heap as a person [who is] most interested and most adept at technology.Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN
For more information about help-desk policies and procedures, check out the Further Resources section.
Hiring, at its worst, inspires both boredom and anxiety. Wading through resumes bores us, and the thought of hiring the wrong person scares us. And the fear factor is worse when you’re a non-techie who’s been tasked with hiring IT staff. As with any complicated, difficult decision, success starts with good planning.
Consider the following when considering hiring staff:
The last ten years have witnessed a change in perspective with regards to IT staffing. At one point, most managers viewed technology as an obscure, mystical specialty similar to medicine or law. In-depth knowledge mattered more than personality in hiring decisions. Lately, after years of frustration and miscommunication, some business writers have started to preach a doctrine of “hire for attitude, train for skill.” The right balance depends in large part on who you already have on your team.
The consequences of a bad tech hire can haunt you for years, long after the person in question has left your organization. For example, consider the following:
With shrinking budgets, libraries can’t hire a full-time employee to address every one of their needs. So they get creative. One of the following ideas below might meet your needs while costing you a lot less than a permanent, 40-hour-a-week employee.
Some of our hardware and printer repairs and that kind of stuff, it’s way cheaper for me to send them out and have them repaired, than for me to pay someone here to do it. It’s by the hour. Sometimes we outsource hardware repairs, of course. Some of our network maintenance we outsource. It’s part of a contract we have with our local ISP at Cincinnati Bell, and they take care of our internet. They do our router maintenance for us. That I consider outsourcing but I kind of talked them into that as part of the contract so we get that for free basically; not free, but it’s kind of a bonus. The stuff that we don’t outsource would be more related to like our database and our servers because those are, to me, so security-sensitive. But yeah, the stuff that we have outsourced, I’m happy, honestly. It saves us money. Let’s say I have a tech that makes $18 an hour and I can get all my junk together and send it out, and some guy repairs it for a flat fee, for example, or that kind of thing. That saves us money.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
In a smaller environment, they may just want to see if there’s a cooperating organization that has somebody who could come to the interview process with them. If they’re a library, see if a school district has somebody they could borrow for the interview time, or a local university or tech school, so that they can evaluate the technical part of the interview, and then the person who’s not technical can make the decisions about the person’s character and the ability to communicate and such.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN
Yes, one of our libraries has their own tech person, and I’ve helped them go through their interview process and come up with a job description. And one of the things in the interview process that I found helpful is having them explain how they’ll fix something, even if you don’t know, just if they can describe it to you, and you catch a few things, it helps. Or have an example, like the monitor wouldn’t come on, what would you do? Or one of our staff says they can’t get their email, what would you suggest to them to do? Or a patron is complaining because a Web page won’t come up, what would you tell them to do? One job interview that I went on awhile back was at a college, and they asked, “What would you do if somebody was complaining about another person looking at pornography?” And I thought that was a clever question to ask because it kind of depends on what the policy is. So, I guess coming up with real-life situations to ask that tech person on how they would handle certain situations is a good way to find out if they really do know what they are doing because some people can talk the talk but not necessarily walk the walk. You can read a book and get the terms, but do you really know how to do it?Jean Montgomery
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation
For more suggestions on hiring technology support, check out our Further Resources section.
IT asset management refers to any set of processes and procedures that helps an organization keep track of its technology resources. At the simplest level, asset management is really just inventory control. What hardware and software do you own, and where is it located? In its more advanced forms, asset management can help you better understand how your staff uses technology, with the goal of becoming more efficient and standardized in your purchasing and decision making.
Most organizations use software to help track their assets. An Microsoft Excel spreadsheet will do in a pinch, especially for smaller libraries. However, there are also lots of programs designed specifically for asset control. A few of these programs are discussed in more detail in our Further Resources section that follows. Among other things, an asset management system should be able to record serial numbers, vendor contact information, warranty information, software license numbers, activation keys, hardware configuration and networking data (e.g., IP address, subnet mask).
Keep in mind that asset management is a continuous process rather than a one-time event to help your library comply with regulations and license agreements. Any time you acquire new software or hardware, it has to be entered into the asset management system. Any time you move a computer or dispose of it, those changes have to be recorded.
IT managers and software vendors sometimes distinguish between hardware asset management and software asset management (aka SAM or software license management). The term IT asset management encompasses both hardware and software. As you’re doing research, you’ll also see reference to asset management as it relates to finance and investment, which is completely unrelated to the topic of this article.
They had a lot of software that they were paying for and either didn't need or weren't using, or weren't even aware of. They were spending a lot of money on stuff that they didn't even know they had and they didn't know what it did. When I walked in the door I didn't have a list of anything as far as who are our vendors, who's the contact person, what is our customer number, what is our license number. How many licenses of this software do we have? I didn't have any of that, but they had all this software running. So, the antivirus for example. It may be on 150 computers and we only have 100 licenses. That's a problem. Or some of the computers didn’t even have antivirus software and those are the ones that had the most viruses.Jaketha Farmer
Bossier Parish Libraries, LA
I have software inventory, I have hardware inventory. I try to keep track of all the IP addresses that we have going out. So spreadsheets have absolutely been my best friend. I probably have 30 of them on my computer for different things I’m trying to keep track of. Subscriptions, like our antivirus subscription, replacement computers, what computers need to be recycled and what computers need to be repurchased. Peripherals, where are all my printers, what are all my printers doing, what are the IPs on them. Ink cartridges, because we have so many different printers, we have to have specific numbers for each cartridge, and so when I need to reorder one, I can just look it up in my spreadsheet. We have a lot of cost analysis that we are trying to keep track of, printer cost, paper cost. Let’s see what I have here. Jack numbers, where everything’s plugged in. So, yeah, the list could go on and on.Sarah McElfresh
North Madison County Public Library, IN
Yeah, we use Spiceworks, which is a free product. I'm not really sure who it's from. But it's asset management and it does network protection, looks through the entire network, picks out everything that's connected to the network, which for us is almost everything. All our printers are networked and half of our phones are. We use Voice over IP for about half the phones in the building, so it pulls all that information off the network and puts it in a nice little graph for me.Robin Hastings
Missouri River Regional Library, MO
This was years and years ago, we needed some kind of a database, just to keep track of things. And I took one of those Microsoft Access templates, those pre-canned asset management databases, and tweaked it and added some fields. And then my brother, who's a database programmer, he came over and helped me make a bunch of changes to it. We added a purchase order portion to it too. So I have a separate database that handles all of our purchase orders, tracking and history. And it works well, but it's a really awkward system to work in, so it's not perfect. And so just actually yesterday I was talking to one of our administrative assistants. She has a separate canne- purchase software that does asset and inventory tracking that she uses for everything else but technology, because I've always had this other one for technology. And we're going to migrate all that data over to her system. And then I've got all these new computers I just got in from Dell that I'm going to have her put directly into the new system. And it makes more sense because she pays the bills. So that way when the invoices come in, she can immediately go ahead and put the serial numbers and stuff into the asset system there and then we just put the tags on them -- we have little property tags that go on the computers themselves. It's a good system and it works well, especially at the end of the year when it comes to auditing. The auditors come in and they start wanting to know, what did you buy and what did you get rid of and what's the depreciated value of this? You need to be able to pull those kind of reports.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
We’ve included a few additional resources on the topic of IT asset management.
In the life of every computer, there comes a day when you have to pat it on the monitor and say goodbye. It has served you faithfully (mostly), but it doesn’t fetch URLs as fast as it used to and it chews up your Microsoft Word documents.
So how do you treat an old computer with the dignity and respect it deserves?
You have several options. You can:
Sometimes you’d really like to replace those wheezing, five-year-old computers, but you’re a bit short on funds, so you have to make the TRS-80s last a while longer. To help you make the best use of technology that you currently have, we suggest you download our Prolonging Computer Use — Tips and Tools. It outlines some of the different ways to prolong the usable life of your equipment.
If we do have the money to replace a computer, we still keep [the old one] for as long as possible. We use it as a junkyard or a parts computer. If the power supply goes bad on this computer, I can take one out of the junk computer.Sarah McElfresh
North Madison County Public Library System, IN
Usually, when a machine goes out of service, it gets repurposed. I’ll use it as a backup machine over here; or we’ve got a temporary worker who needs a machine to sit at for a few days. And then, after that, I’ll usually store them just in case I have to send a machine back or one’s out of service for a while. And even then I’ll keep a couple just in case we decide to add another public computer here or something over there. The keyboards and the mice I’ll always keep, because we go through those, like a million a year, it seems like — they’re always getting broken or busted; the mice take a lot of abuse. And then when it’s actually time to get rid of the machine or it’s getting close to it, I’ll start taking things like the CD-ROM out, the floppy drive, and repurpose those, because the CD-ROMs and floppy drives take a lot of abuse; again, I always need them. I’ll strip the memory out, the hard drive out, because I can use those in other machines. Very rarely do I ever sell an old machine. But I can, and I’ve done it before, through the county. They have a garage sale twice a year, and I usually format the hard drive, and then our board has to declare them surplus. I have to explain how old they were, what they were used for, how much we spent for them, how much the depreciated cost is now, that kind of stuff. Then they will declare them surplus and I can take them down to the county office and they sell them, and I think they give us a percentage of the amount of money they make off of them.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library System, MT
When a computer is beyond repair, or if you’ve decided that you really have no use for it, you have a few options, depending on your situation. To help you sort through these options, we’ve provided a Computer Disposal The Safe and Easy Way — Quick Reference. It outlines different situations along with a list of solutions.
At any rate, when a computer has reached its end of life —- it’s either four years old or it’s just so broken we can’t fix it anymore — when that happens, we have a local place here that takes our computers for free for recycling, so we take them there. The other thing we have to do that I don’t know if everybody has to do or not, our library has to make a list of all the stuff we’re going to get rid of and it has to go before the board for approval.Michelle Foster
Boone County Public Library, KY
For the last couple of years we’ve had a public sale for our used computers. I think actually last year, it didn't make it to the public because we let the staff have first pick and the staff bought all of them. But the year before that we did actually have a public sale. We set up in our staff driveway, and it was the first time we’d ever done it, so we had a bunch of stuff that we had stuck away in closets — a lot of old switches as well as older computers that were no longer under warranty that we really couldn’t use. We generally transfer the license from one computer to another for XP and all the other software. So we’ll wipe the hard drives clean and maybe provide a compact disc of Linux to go with it. If they want to buy their own copy of XP or whatever, they can. But it’s really easy to make those installation disks for Ubuntu. I think last year we charged 50 dollars for a computer.Robin Hastings
Missouri River Regional Library, MO
When they’re completely unusable, we do recycle. We have a recycling project going on now in our community, which we haven’t had in the past, and they do recycle that kind of equipment. Of course, the person in the community that we go to for our computer questions, I always let him look at [the computers] and see if there are any parts he can use before we actually take them to the recycling center. We’ve even refurbished a couple of them for some of the kids in the school system just so that they would have a word processor to do their homework and that kind of thing on. And actually, our Friends of the Library has started a project where they’re going to try to refurbish some for that purpose. They’re not Internet-capable, but at least they can run some software applications on them.LeeAnn Jessee
Adair County Public Library, KY
If they’re still workable, our chamber here has a “Computers for Kids” program [in which] different computer companies volunteer their time and refurbish computers for kids who don’t have access [to one] but would need one for classes. The school recommends who to give the computers to. But we still had a couple NT machines, and they didn’t take those because they just couldn’t do much with them. Yeah, so then we destroy the hard drives and throw them out, but usually they’re donated to Computers for Kids.Greta Lehnerz
Natrona County Public Library, WV
To learn more about refurbishing and recycling of old computers, check out our Further Resources section.
When you’re lacking time and money, it’s tempting to wait until a computer breaks or a piece of software becomes obsolete and then think about how you’ll replace it. Even in smaller libraries, this approach leads to unscheduled downtime, inconsistent service and funding problems. In large libraries, it’s completely impractical. When you replace a batch of computers or upgrade a major piece of software, your budget takes a hit, you may want to do testing, your staff may need training and you’ll spend a significant amount of time installing and deploying. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself at this stage include:
Make refreshes a part of your technology plan. If possible, make the technology refresh a part of your strategic planning and technology planning conversations. It can have a major impact on your budget and your services, so you want feedback from frontline staff, managers, trustees and patrons, if possible.
There are no hard and fast rules about when a refresh should occur. In general, desktop systems and servers are replaced every three to four years, while laptops, phones and other mobile devices are swapped every two to three years. Printers and networking equipment may last five years or more. Software and operating systems vary widely, depending on your organization’s needs and vendor support. However, these are all just guidelines, and factors unique to your organization will drive the final decision about when to refresh.
Big bang: In this approach, you switch out all of the computers in your library at the same time every third, fourth or fifth year. This is a risky strategy, since your funding sources could dry up just as you’re about to replace everything. Furthermore, this “all at once” approach puts a big strain on your IT department, who needs to deal with a sudden influx of new equipment. On the other hand, your IT department will always have a standard hardware configuration because all the PCs were purchased at the same time. Also, you might save some money by buying in bulk.
Phased refresh: A lot of libraries swap out a fraction of their computers each year. For example, if they’re on a four-year replacement cycle, they’ll replace 25 percent of their PCs each year. This makes their budget requests more uniform and spreads out the impact of hardware rollouts.
Modified big bang: If your funding agency allows it, you can set aside a chunk of money each year for new computers. However, rather than spending it as it’s allocated, you can wait and make one big purchase every third or fourth year.
Software upgrades and rollouts can cause a lot of frustration and lost productivity if staff haven’t been trained properly beforehand.
What we do is we maintain a database of all our computers, and we also look at the warranty. Typically, we purchase our computers with a three-year warranty. And from that database, I extract a report every fiscal year that shows which computers are either already out of warranty or will become out of warranty by the end of the fiscal year. From there, we analyze which computers need to be replaced. And some of the computers that are giving us more problems, even though they’re not on the top of the list, we escalate them because we know that we’ve been fixing [them] X amount of times.Silvia Urena
San Mateo County Library, CA
We’re hoping to keep the Discover stations changed out. I am planning to put new computers in those stations every three years. I never want those to give us any trouble. I want to change out every three, no more than five years, the whole library network, which is all of our staff computers and our whole circulation system and our public access catalog. I don’t want equipment to stand in our way if there’s any way that I can find the money to do that. I have pretty well communicated that with all the powers that be as far as the budgeting goes.Phyllis Reed
Ruidoso Public Library, NM
We try to stick to at least a three-year schedule. We try, we do our very best. Because I would say the general rule of thumb is if it’s three years old, you need to throw it in the trash. You can throw it in the trash or revamp it, reimage it, do whatever you need to do, but after three years, don’t look for it to work pristinely. So we try to replace everything if it’s been here for three years. But, of course, we have the money, so we can do that. I know a lot of people don’t. So in that situation, my best advice is to upgrade those computers as far as you can, upgrade the RAM as much as you possibly can, and just put a fresh image on it. If you have major problems, just run a new operating system on it and start from scratch, because that’ll take care of anything that’s wrong with it, for the most part.Jarvis Sims
Hall County Library System, GA
We try to stick to about a four-year computer replacement cycle, depending on the uses of the computers. A standard staff machine or a public workstation, I try to replace them every four years. Catalog machines, machines that are just used for browsing the OPAC, single-purpose machines that don’t take a lot of abuse and they’re not very complicated machines to begin with, I can usually push them out to five years, if needed. I do purchase almost all of my PCs brand new. I’ve had people who insist on donating computers to us, and I’d rather they give them to a school or a nonprofit or some other kind of organization. But I’ve used those before.Matt Beckstrom
Lewis & Clark Public Library, MT
It’s absolutely difficult to get people to go along with change, even when it’s minor, or where we think that we’ve discussed it and we’ve said, ‘Well, they won’t need training on that, so let’s just go ahead.’ We found that they absolutely thought they needed training on it. And that was the case when we switched from our old email software to Zimbra. We thought, ’You know, it’s email. It’s not that different from Hotmail; it’s not that different from Yahoo! It’s just the buttons are in different places.’ But staff absolutely expected that it was a big enough change that they ought to have received training. So one of the things we try to do to mitigate that is to tell people as early and as often that something is changing, something is coming, and get whatever details out that we can. And as far as what we can actually do for training, we’re very limited, because we don’t have a very large training budget. So we try to just put out pieces that they can read, and we just try to do it through communicating.Jay Roos
Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN
And in fact, we talked to the city manager, and he suggested we only change [the computers] out every four years, [since they are ] not changing that much and it’s taking too long to install. So our goal will be by four years, we’ll be totally changed out.K.G. Ouye
San Mateo Public Library, CA
Essentially, the two of us get together and decide what machines need to be replaced. And typically, staff machines get replaced first because they’re being used to make the library go. Although this last time around, we did replace public machines first because those were getting very old. And typically, it’s probably between three and five years when they’re replaced.Brian Heils
Dubuque County Library, IA
Most of the stuff is replaced on a regular cycle, and for us, it’s four years. We used to do five years, but then you run into issues where you have different operating systems because usually, in five years, you’ve got new operating systems to deal with. At any rate, when a computer has reached its end of life, it’s either four years old or it’s just so broken we can’t fix it anymore.Michelle Foster
Boone County Library, KY
We try to replace 10 to 12 computers a year, and that’s throughout the library. We keep an inventory of the oldest, or we had a PAC [public access computer] stolen out of the teen zone and that one had to be replaced. But we try to do 10 to 12 a year; we budget for that so that in a three-year period almost everything has been replaced.”Greta Lehnerz
Natrona County Public Library, WV
We like to keep all of our computers in warranty for four years if it’s at all possible. And we generally run one year past warranty. We figure at that point we can start cannibalizing and using the parts out of our older machines to replace things that are required and keep enough of them going to keep them available for the extra year. And we basically buy in the vicinity of 60 to 70 desktops every year. With the 400-plus we have out there, that puts us at a four-and-a-half to five-year schedule. And sometimes we get a few more; like this year we got lucky. Dell had great buys at the end of a quarter and we were able to get 80 with our budgeted amount instead of 60. So we basically replace everything within five years.Michael Fettes
Alachua County Library District, FL
We have a four-year replacement schedule. We are funding that partly through the Gates hardware upgrade. We were the beneficiaries of one of the original Gates computers and libraries grants — two of them, in fact; two of the different cycles. And, therefore, we’re eligible for the latest round of grants to replace computers in libraries. So that’s certainly helping us replace those PCs. We also are the huge beneficiaries of a sales tax measure in the county of Fresno that is specific to supporting libraries. So we have the money in our budget [to keep] the PCs operational and [to get] that level of staffing that allows us to have all those techs and the money for a four-year replacement plan for all of our computers.Deborah Janzen
Fresno County Public Library, CA
The success of your library’s technological structure depends on how well it is maintained. This, in turn, has a lot to do with if and how you are using diagnostic measures and preventative procedures to help extend the life of your computer. Your IT asset management system also plays a big part in keeping your hardware and software up-to-date and in good shape. To assist you in this area, we’ve assembled a variety of tools.
1. Do you have a regular maintenance checklist for your computers?
A Cookbook for Small and Rural Libraries contains routine maintenance checklists.
2. Have you considered your IT staffing requirements and alternate staffing solutions (e.g., consultants, shared IT staff)?
See IT Hiring for further details.
3. What should you look for when you’re hiring a new techie? How do you write the job description, what questions do you ask at the interview and how do you evaluate the candidates?
Check out IT Hiring for more information about screening and interviewing potential IT staff.
4. Do you need policies regarding:
See our Help-Desk Policies and Procedures page.
5. Would help-desk management software improve communication and efficiency in your library?
See our Help-Desk Software page.
6. Do you need remote desktop software? If you have many branches and few IT staff, the answer is probably yes.
See our Remote Desktop Software page.
7. What are the pros and cons of letting staff perform their own routine maintenance and troubleshooting? Is there a compromise between overcentralized IT and chaotic, decentralized IT?
8. Should you make more of an effort to standardize your IT infrastructure? Consistent, standard hardware and software are much easier to maintain.
See our IT Standardization page.
|TYPE OF SOFTWARE||TO LEARN MORE|
|Issue-tracking software (aka trouble ticket software) offers libraries a way to manage support requests and minor IT projects. When someone calls your help-desk, the technician creates a trouble ticket with an incident number and uses the software to record his or her efforts to fix the problem. Also, with each update to the status of the problem, the software can send out automatic messages (usually by email) to the end user. Issue-tracking software can report on certain key metrics, such as the average time it takes your technicians to respond to a request and the average time it takes them to solve a problem. Finally, the details of each incident can form the basis of a knowledge management system. Therefore, issue-tracking software and knowledge management software are usually integrated or sold as a package (see the following item).
||Wikipedia has a good overview article on this topic, as well as a comparison of different issue-tracking programs. Slashdot has a long, useful forum discussion where managers and techies describe their experience with different programs.|
|A knowledge management system (aka knowledge base) keeps individuals and organizations from solving the same problem more than once. Ideally, once a solution has been found, no one in the organization should have to repeat the process of research and discovery. Often, a knowledge management system is simply a different interface to your issue-tracking software (see previous). As technicians record the details of each incident, they’re actually creating the knowledge base. It’s important that technicians have an intuitive, well-designed set of categories and keywords to choose from when classifying support incidents. Without that, retrieval becomes difficult. Also, you may want to give non-technical librarians access to the knowledge base so they can solve their own problems. If so, ask about what types of customer and end-user interfaces are available.
||Should You Ditch Your Knowledge Base and Use a Wiki Instead? describes a low-cost, informal approach to knowledge management.
|Remote desktop applications allow you to establish a connection with a computer anywhere in the world, see what’s happening on that computer and control it using your own mouse and keyboard.||For more information, see our Remote Desktop Software page.
|Systems management software actually refers to a suite of IT management tools that have been integrated into a single package. The specific tools and utilities included in a systems management software suite vary from vendor to vendor, but you’ll often find a single package that includes all the other utilities in this list (e.g., asset management, disk imaging, software deployment, etc.).
||For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
|Disk-imaging software can be used to reinstall the operating system and core software after a hard drive crash or a major software problem.
||For more information, see our Disk-Cloning in Libraries page.
|Rather than walking from machine to machine or driving from branch to branch with an installation CD every time you purchase new software, consider acquiring a software deployment tool. A software deployment tool automates the installation of other software. More often than not, these tools are part of the systems management software suite mentioned previously.
||For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
|Patch management software is similar to a software deployment tool. Rather than automating the installation of an entire application, patch management programs download and install security patches and other updates.
||For more information, see our Installing and Patching Software page.
|Asset-tracking tools let you know the exact location of each piece of hardware and software, as long as you’re using it regularly and keeping it up-to-date. It can also record information about the configuration of each computer, who supports it, service agreements and other metadata. Ready access to this can save your IT department time, but it’s also useful for managers and accountants.
||For more information, see our Asset Management page.
|Install an open-source operating system||Many open-source, Linux-based operating systems are designed to use a minimum of system resources. In other words, they’ll run just fine with an older processor and 128 MB of RAM. For example, Xubuntu is an officially supported variant of Ubuntu that needs less speed and less memory than the main distribution. Fluxbuntu is even less resource-intensive, but it’s not officially supported by Canonical (the folks who develop and maintain Ubuntu). Bear in mind that making the switch to Linux often requires retraining for your systems librarians, your regular staff and your patrons. On the other hand, Linux distributions, such as the ones mentioned here, are becoming increasingly user-friendly, so the transition from Windows isn’t as hard as it used to be. For more information, see our article on Open-Source Software in Libraries.|
|Add some memory||The cheapest way to make an old machine run faster is to add some RAM. It is generally cheap these days, but you need to be careful and buy RAM that’s compatible with your motherboard. How to Upgrade Your PC’s RAM has some good advice on buying and installing RAM.|
|Clean out the junk||Computers slow down after a while due to spyware, disk fragmentation, temp files and so forth. Read Preventing Trouble on Windows Through Regular Maintenance for tips on how to keep your computers clean.|
|Use it for spare parts||Old computers can be a source of replacement parts — expansion cards, memory modules, hard drives, etc.|
|Keep it as a temporary or swap computer||When a computer crashes, it’s nice to have spare machines on hand. You can roll out one of your older PCs while you’re repairing the newer one. Also, if you have guests or new employees, you can set them up on one of the older machines until you’ve prepared their permanent computer.|
|Use it as an OPAC station||If you dedicate a few computers to searching your online catalog, you might as well use older machines. Searching the OPAC usually doesn’t require a lot of power.|
|Use it as a test machine||Experimenting is a great way to learn about technology, so your staff might appreciate the opportunity to play on some of your older machines.|
|THE SITUATION||THE SOLUTION||SOME SOURCES|
|Your computer is less than five years old and it’s in working condition||Donate or sell the computer to a qualified refurbisher. There are hundreds of nonprofit computer refurbishers in the U.S. If you have a computer that’s less than five years old and still in working condition, they’ll wipe the hard drive, install an operating system, upgrade some of the components if need be and then give the computer to a school, nonprofit or low-income family. If you’re considering a donation to a school or nonprofit, it’s often easier for everyone if you give to a nonprofit refurbisher instead. Otherwise, the school or nonprofit will waste a lot of time upgrading components and installing software. Furthermore, they’ll eventually have a patchwork of mismatched hardware that they can’t support.||To find a refurbisher near you, look at the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) database. MAR refurbishers donate some or all of their refurbished equipment to schools and nonprofits. If you can’t find a MAR refurbisher in your area, try TechSoup’s directory of refurbishers and recyclers or search My Green Electronics.|
|Your computer is more than five years old or it’s damaged beyond repair||Find a commercial recycler. If your computers are more than five years old, or if they’re no longer in working condition, you should find a qualified recycler who can dismantle the machine and dispose of the parts in an environmentally friendly fashion. You’ll usually have to pay a small fee to the recycler (anywhere from $5 to $30).||Again, TechSoup has a searchable directory of recyclers as does My Green Electronics. The Basel Action Network maintains a list of electronics recyclers, who have agreed to abide by a strict set of criteria regarding how they dispose of e-waste and who does the work.|
|You could really use some extra cash.||Sell the computer at a yard sale or auction. If your old computers are in working condition, you may be able to sell them, as long as you’ve reviewed the relevant regulations. Don’t expect a huge windfall of cash, but you might recoup somewhere between $25 and $100 per machine.||Your local government may sell the computers for you at an auction, or you might get some money from a refurbisher, or you might sell them at your annual book sale. Again, be careful to obey the relevant regulations.|
In this section, you’ll find several tools and worksheets for keeping track of hardware, software and software licenses.
Keep in mind that you have a few options when it comes to IT documentation. You can use worksheets like the ones provided here, or you can use asset management programs (aka asset tracking programs). Basically, the worksheets below and asset management programs are designed with the same purpose in mind -- tracking the location and configuration of your hardware, software and networking infrastructure. Which one you use depends on your personal style and the size and complexity of your IT environment. If you opt to use these worksheets you don’t have to install anything or learn a new interface (assuming you know how to use Word or Excel), but worksheets don’t scale well in large, complex environments, and they don’t have any reporting features. With asset management programs, you may need to test a few to find the one you like, and with some you’ll have to install the software locally, but they have the tracking and reporting features that administrators need in mid-sized and large organizations.
ASSET TAG #
HARDWARE CONFIGURATION / ADDITIONAL HARDWARE
|SOFTWARE CONFIGRATION / ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS
||ReferenceRoom (2nd floor)
||Standard poublic computer configuration
Pixma 4500 Printer
Standard Staff configuration
Sirsi Cataloging modules
Notes: A serial number is usually assigned by the manufacturer and can be found on the back or side of the computer. An asset tag number is usually assigned by your organization or parent organization. Rather than record redundant information about the hardware configuration of each machine, use the Standard Hardware Configurations worksheet. A software configuration (aka a disk image) is a standard collection of software used on more than one computer in your library. To save space and avoid repetition, document your software images on CB Worksheet 3: Standard Software Configurations.
||NUMBER AND DESCRIPTION
||MAKE AND MODEL
||PURCHASE ORDER #
|2006Dells||18 desktop computers for the patron lab at the Waushega branch library
||Dell Optiplex 745
||November 19, 2006
||November 30, 2009
|Tech Support #
||CPU Type & Speed
|Win XP Home
||Core 2 Duo2 / 2.4 GHz|
||NUMBER AND DESCRIPTION
||MAKE AND MODEL
||PURCHASE ORDER #
|Tech Support #
||CPU Type & Speed
|CONFIGURATION NAME||EXAMPLE CONFIGURATION
||PUBLIC PCs||CHILDREN'S PCs
|Description||Basic software image for all patron computers
|File Path (optional)
||Symantec Antivirus 10.1
||Windows XP, SP3
Microsoft Office 2003
||Encarta Premium 2007
||Internet Explorer 7
Adobe Reader 8
||Windows Media Player 10
Notes: In small libraries, this worksheet can serve as a checklist of the software that you install on each new computer. Mid-sized and large libraries often use disk-cloning software (aka disk imaging software) to install everything at once onto new computers (i.e. the operating system, the software, and all of the configuration settings). If you use this approach, you can record the contents of your standard disk images on this worksheet. If you use disk-cloning software, use these two fields to record the location of your disk image file.
||NUMBER OF LICENSES
||NUMBER OF INSTALLED COPIES
||WHERE IS INSTALLATION CD
|Office Productivity|| MS Office 2003
||Locked file cabinet in Barbara’s office
Notes: Every vendor has different license types and license categories, so the information you enter here will vary. For example, you might note here that the license and the software came with the computer and can’t be transferred to another machine. This is known as an OEM license. Also, most large vendors sell volume licenses if you need more than a certain number of copies. For more information, see your documentation or contact your vendor. The product key (aka activation key or license key) is a number that you use to prove that you have a legal, authorized copy of the software. If you enter your product keys in this worksheet, be sure to encrypt the file and keep hard copies of it in a safe location. Anyone who knows your product key can install the software themselves, which might deactivate your copy or cause problems for you with your vendor. Instead of entering the product keys here, you might use this field to point to another, more secure location.
|Make / Model
|Asset Tag Number
|Purchase Order #
|Tech Support #
|Warranty Expiration Date
|CPU Type and Speed
|UPS / Battery Backup
|Other Hardware Components
|# of OS Client Access Licenses
|Procedure for virus and security updates
|Other software and licensing information
||HOW IS IT DISTRIBUTED
||WHO KEEPS IT UP TO DATE AND AUTHORIZES CHANGES
|Acceptable use policy for patrons and guests using our computer
|Acceptable use policy for patrons and guests using their own computers on our network
|Acceptable use policy for staff
|Password security policy
|Licensing and copying software
|Disaster recovery plan
|Computer disposal policy
|Policy regarding computer donations
||AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY AND/OR EXPERTISE
|Staff name Date
|What was the user trying to do (i.e., what was the desired outcome)?|
|Suggestions for next step
|Person who fixed it Date
|1||Check that both ends of the monitor’s power cord are plugged in tightly.
||Check that both ends of the power cord are plugged in tightly.
||Is the surge protector plugged into the wall? Are there lights on the surge protector?
||Press the power button on the CPU. Which lights, if any, are lit up on the front of the tower? What color are they?
||Press the power button on the monitor. Does the monitor’s power button light up? What color is it?
||If you see power lights on the monitor and the tower but nothing on the screen, make sure the brightness and contrast on the monitor aren’t set to zero. Usually they should both be set between 70 and 90. The monitor controls are different for each model, but they’re usually found near the bottom of the monitor. Consult the monitor’s manual for more information.
||If you still don’t see anything on the screen, contact tech support.
||Turn the computer off, let it sit for 30 seconds and turn it
||If you still can’t log on, make sure you’ve removed all CDs, DVDs, floppy disks or USB drives. Reboot.
||If you’re comfortable accessing the BIOS, get into the BIOS and make sure that the hard drive is set as the first boot device. Exit, saving your changes.
||If your machine runs Windows and you’re familiar with last known good configuration or restore points, press F8 to access the menu. Reboot.
||What was the end user doing before the computer began malfunctioning?
||Has anyone added new hardware or software to this machine recently?
||Where does the machine stop? Does it freeze, turn off or reboot? Does it show any error messages? Write all of this information down.
|8||Contact tech support.
||Close all open programs and dialog windows.
||Restart the program and try to re-create the problem.
|3||If the problem recurs, turn off the computer, let it rest for ten seconds and turn it on again.
||Log on and try to re-create the problem.
||If the problem recurs, did you change any configuration settings recently? If so, reverse the changes.
||Did you install new hardware or software recently? Uninstall and try to re-create the problem.
||If the problem recurs, record the exact sequence of actions and clicks that generated the unexpected results. Also describe in detail how the program reacted and why that reaction was abnormal or undesirable.
||Finally, write down word for word the text of any error messages that you see.
||Also write down the name of the computer that’s experiencing the problem. On most Windows machines, go to Start -> Run, and type in sysdm.cpl. Click on the Computer Name tab. Write down the full name of the computer.
|10||Contact tech support.
||If you feel it’s appropriate, ask the end user what Web site they’re having trouble getting to and write it down.
||Click the refresh button on the Web browser toolbar.
||Try to visit at least two other Web sites. For example, if you can’t reach the library catalog, go to http://www.cnn.com and http://www.abcnews.com. Can you reach any of these sites?
||Are the computers nearby reaching the Internet? If not, you can skip steps 5 through 9.
||Close all the open Web browser windows and relaunch the Web browser. Try to reach one or two different Web sites.
||Reboot the computer. Log on and try to reach one or two different Web sites.
||Check the network cable (aka Ethernet cable) on the back of the computer. Make sure it’s plugged securely into the back of the computer and the network jack on the floor or the wall. Try reaching the Internet again.
||If you’re still having trouble, use a different network cable, preferably one from a computer with a working Internet connection. If your Internet connection works again, you should replace the defective network cable.
||If you’re still having trouble, check to see if there’s a green light on the back of the computer where the network cable plugs in.
||If you know how to use the ping utility, open a command prompt and see if you can ping the loopback address (127.0.0.1), the default gateway and an address outside your local network (e.g., 126.96.36.199).
||Write down the name of the computer that’s having trouble. If you know how to find the computer’s IP address, write that down as well.
||Call tech support.
||Reboot the computer. If there’s a print job stuck in the local print queue, this usually clears the problem. Log on again and try to print a test page from Microsoft Word.
||If you’re still having a problem printing, open a Web browser and try to access one or two different Web pages. If you can’t access them, you probably have an Internet connection problem rather than a printer problem.
|3||Try printing to the same networked printer from another computer. If you succeed in printing from another PC, the problem is local to the first machine and you should skip to step 10.
||Make sure the printer is plugged in and check that the lights are on.
||Check the paper trays and make sure there’s paper.
||Check for paper jams. If you find one, turn off the printer and slowly, carefully pull out the paper.
||Many printers have any online/offline button. Make sure the display indicates that the printer is online.
||Many printers have a resume button that you have to press after a problem or interruption.
||If you’re still having trouble, turn the printer off and on again.
||If the problem is only happening on one computer, try printing from another program.
||If you have authorization, go to Start -> Settings -> Printers. Make sure that the network printer you’re trying to print to is listed and set as the default. If you don’t know the name of the network printer, you can often find a label on the printer itself. If you’re still not sure, write down the name of the default printer so you can tell tech support.
||Double-click on the icon corresponding to the printer you’re trying to print to. Delete any stalled print jobs. Also, make sure the printer itself isn’t paused.
||If you’re still experiencing a problem, call tech support.
Whether offering Internet access to patrons or providing an online catalogue, steps must be taken to implement effective network security to protect your resources. With a proper technology plan in place, you should have already addressed many of the issues surrounding network security. Our purpose here is to provide insight for the particular issues regarding network security, including:
We also focus on wide area networking and network management. For more information about LANs and the basics of networking, you should refer to our Further Resources section.
Managing security means understanding the risks and deciding how much risk is acceptable. Different levels of security are appropriate for different organizations. No network is 100 percent secure, so don’t aim for that level of protection. If you try to stay up-to-date on every new threat and every virus, you’ll soon be a quivering ball of anxiety and stress. Look for the major vulnerabilities that you can address with your existing resources.
We all know the numerous advantages of computer networks and the Internet. Connecting your network to the Internet provides access to an enormous amount of information and allows you to share information on an incredible scale. However, the communal nature of the Internet, which creates so many benefits, also offers malicious users easy access to numerous targets. The Internet is only as secure as the networks it connects, so we all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our networks.
Even if you plan to get security advice from an outside consultant or volunteer, understanding some basic concepts will help you evaluate your advisors and cut down on the number of calls you have to make. Basic networking topics such as TCP/IP addressing, network hardware, cabling and connectivity troubleshooting are well covered elsewhere, so look at our Further Resources. We also have information on our site about Bandwidth Management, Internet Access and ISPs and Wide Area Networks.
We included a few additional resources, which can further clarify any questions you have regarding the fundamentals of network security.
A vulnerability is a weak spot in your network that might be exploited by a security threat. Risks are the potential consequences and impacts of unaddressed vulnerabilities. In other words, failing to do Windows Updates on your Web server is vulnerability. Some of the risks associated with that vulnerability include loss of data, hours or days of site downtime and the staff time needed to rebuild a server after it’s been compromised.
Before you start searching around for weak spots in your network, we suggest you first review our Where and How to Find Vulnerabilities tool.
The issue we have is that we have the public accessing the Internet on a network that needs to be secured due to the nature of some of the county businesses. We don't know that we've had any security breaches, but the potential is there. So the manager of our county IS Department has requested that our public computers be moved off of the county network. So we are in the process of moving to a cable modem system. Both our wireless and our public computers will be operating directly through Comcast.Claire Stafford
Madelyn Helling Library, CA
I can see a lot of reasons for having an Active Directory, but the chief one is authentication, and our staff is really very reluctant to do things like change passwords. For instance, our integrated library system, we would be able to have each clerk log on with a personal password. And then, when that person left our employment, you could get rid of the password. It would be a lot more secure.Bob Bjornson
Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, VA
To learn more about network security vulnerability threats, check out the Further Resources section.
Security policies provide the road map for how to protect your network. These guidelines include the acceptable use of technical resources, the security requirements and why a particular policy exists. Without the clear guidelines from a security policy, your library runs the risk of inconsistent implementation of security. The process of creating a security policy provides a unique opportunity to understand the details of your organization’s network.
For additional resources on the topic of creating security policies, check out the Further Resources section.
The Internet is a dangerous place filled with a constant barrage of automated scans that scour the Internet for vulnerable targets. Once identified, these targets receive a variety of attacks. Many of the attackers have no idea who owns the target, and the ultimate goal depends on both the attacker and the type of target. Selecting an appropriate firewall helps protect your network from the Internet and the Internet from your network.
For a quick review of the most typical firewalls for different-sized library networks, take a look at the Firewalls at a Glance tool.
Most security experts agree that having a poorly configured firewall is worse than not having a firewall. At least you know your network is not secure without a firewall, while you have the misconception of security with a properly configured firewall. There are a few important steps to take when configuring your firewall.
Whether offering Internet access to patrons or providing an online catalogue, steps must be taken to implement effective network security to protect your resources. With a proper technology plan in place, you should have already addressed many of the issues surrounding network security. Our purpose here is to provide insight for the particular issues regarding network security.
We had some issues [with our Wide Area Network], because we’re encrypting all of our traffic for security reasons on the intranet side, the staff side. We found that it was really slow at the farthest library from the system headquarters. I had to use a hardware solution to get the encryption to speed up. Now that we’ve got that done, I should be able to get the other branches done pretty quickly. We wanted to encrypt our traffic so that patron information is protected when it’s being passed over the Internet. We’re circulating over the Internet. We don’t have our own private network.Cindy Murdock
We’re using a special router built on OpenBSD [a Unix-like operating system] and a VIA C7 chipset that has hardware encryption capabilities. The speed difference is enormous. When we first noticed this problem, I did some benchmarks. Apache, the Web server that we’re using, handles about 4,000 transactions per second unencrypted. With the encryption in place, it can only handle 70-80 transactions per second. So we had to offload the encryption onto this hardware solution [the OpenBSD router mentioned above] to speed it up. Before, when you would circulate a book from the most remote library, it would take 20-30 seconds to finish the transaction, whereas now with the fast hardware encryption, it’s barely noticeable. It’s like using a regular Web page.
Meadville Public Library, PA
We have one central firewall now that we allow multiple libraries to use, so all of their web traffic comes here and then out. When the kids want to play in the library and someone asks me to open a port, I’ll try to determine what port number it is, and then I go out on the Internet and look and see if there are any vulnerabilities to that port. Is there a known Trojan horse or virus that’s coming in on that port? If there is, then we don’t allow the port; if I don’t find anything, then we will allow it, but we might only allow it for a few machines.Jean Montgomery
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation, MI
Interested in finding out more about firewalls? Check out our Further Resources section.
Networking is the connecting of computers to share data (e.g., files and databases) or functionality (e.g., printers, scanners, Internet connections, etc).
A network can be as small as a local area network (LAN), where two computers share information using a hub or switch, or as big as a wide area network (WAN), where many libraries in different locations share an Internet connection or automated library system.
The way machines are connected has changed over the years, but at the building level, the most common technologies right now are Ethernet and 802.11b (i.e., wireless or WiFi), or a combination of the two. Between buildings, at the WAN level, organizations use a wide variety of equipment and protocols (e.g., Frame Relay, T-1, Ethernet, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and various fiber protocols).
In one sense, you already have an army of network monitors in your library. Every time something goes wrong, you probably get a few spontaneous alerts from patrons and colleagues. However, if you want preventive information and in-depth analysis of what’s happening on your network, you need network monitoring software.
Bandwidth, throughput and speed are three terms that most people use interchangeably when discussing networks. However, speed isn’t really accurate in this context (though it is used all the time anyway), and there is a small distinction between bandwidth and throughput, as discussed in the following section. Latency and jitter are two connected concepts that increase in importance as more people conduct real-time voice and video interactions across the Internet. Uptime is another important metric that’s a little easier to understand.
For a more detailed look at metric terms and definitions, download and review our Network Performance Metrics Overview tool.
To measure network performance metrics, you need network monitoring software.
It’s pretty obvious, I think, when you’re really running out of space or out of bandwidth, and we are right now for sure. But we also have a tool called PRTG that monitors bandwidth and the network connections. You need to do that, especially if you’re using your network like we are, where we’re doing security cameras, Voice over IP, data and HVAC controls. We’re doing a lot of stuff over the network connection. So it’s critical that it work properly.Jim Haprian
Medina County Library, OH
For more information about network performance monitoring and metrics, check out the Further Resources section.
Reading a contract from the phone company or a bill from an Internet service provider (ISP) can cause experienced techies to shake their heads in confusion and frustration. Even by the standards of the technology sector, telecommunications professionals use a lot of acronyms and jargon. Moreover, the technology, terminology, services and prices all change frequently. Our intent is to introduce a few concepts that stay relatively stable and consistent. We’ll also be suggesting some criteria that you can use the next time you’re shopping for high-speed data lines.
The focus here is mainly on Internet access; however, in practice, you should plan your voice, video and data needs simultaneously. More and more, the same companies provide all three services and transmit them over the same wires. Phone calls, movies and Web pages can all be translated into digital form and transmitted over the same circuits. Similarly, we discuss wide area networking in the next topic, but in practice, you’ll often get these WAN links from the same company that provides your Internet connection. Wide area networking refers to the connectivity between branches in a multibranch library system.
In the U.S., the major providers of Internet access are phone companies, cable companies and government entities. Minor players include satellite Internet providers and small ISPs who rent equipment and services from larger companies.
The following are a few tips on how to assess your current bandwidth usage and plan for your future needs.
Before you go looking for a Telecom provider, we recommend that you take a minute or so to download our Ten Factors to Consider When Shopping for a Telecom Provider tool.
Q: This is the first time I’ve heard of an ISP who is providing the technical service but donating part of it and also donating the Internet connection, because that’s a pretty big chunk of dough, right?
It is very big, and they’ve been doing it for ten years. [More than] ten years. Maybe closer to 15. We started out in a partnership. They used our electrical closet for their routers and the T1 line that was coming in, and it’s just kind of grown from there. One hundred percent of the cost of the Internet they pick up and give us great bandwidth service. They don’t have their equipment here anymore. They’ve moved up to DS3, but they still provide the service to the library. And our wireless service as well. So it’s been a big boon for the library.
Lewiston Public Library, MT
Traditionally, over the years, the library had always had its own Internet provider. So I started looking at how much we were spending. I think that the more you get together with other people, the more you increase your bargaining power. So we went in together with our main county IT, and we said, ‘How about we join together and try to go out to bid and see what we can get?’ And surprisingly we saved a lot of money because we put our resources together and our bargaining power then became bigger. Everybody was trying to get our business and so they offered us bandwidth that nobody had ever heard of. They were able to come up with certain combinations for us just so they could get our business. You will be amazed at what they can do when you show them the money and they see that they are about to lose a customer — especially one that is going to be a long-term customer. They come up with all kinds of combinations and all kinds of things. We ended up with a 45-Mbps pipe that was split between the two of us. We were paying $3,000 a month for 6-Mbps, and now I’m paying $3,000 a month for 22 Mbps. That’s how you save money. You just have to find other people and just try to leverage your bargaining power, and people will come running.
Johnson County Library, KS
We combined the Bill and Melinda Gates program grant with the city capital improvement project, so we went from 11 to 30 computers, and the bandwidth was sufficient but it was starting to choke a bit because of the new usage. And then we expanded to 38 PCs, and it really started to slow down considerably. And IT at the time, told us, ‘Well, you could have up to 50 computers on this network and it shouldn’t slow down, [but] that was not the case. So, because we got the e-rate funding, we decided to upgrade the bandwidth to as far as we could put it at the time. We went from 1.5 Mbps to 6 Mbps and it’s a huge difference — a huge difference — because we have wireless Internet access and we have 38 public access computers. With all of them working at the same time, it was grinding to a halt. Now, with everything set up it’s really, really fast, which is nice.
Casa Grande Public Library, AZ
The city had gone through a process to upgrade their bandwidth at the same time we were looking at upgrading the library’s bandwidth, and the problem they ran into was that there are a lot of politics involved as far as who should get the contract. So instead of doing a bid, they’re like, ‘Oh, we should use a local company’ and then it should be just this person, and then it sort of all fell apart. Because of e-rate, we’re forced to pick a vendor on that list, which we don’t have any control over. We just have to pick one of the three or four people that can provide that in the area, so we ended up picking Qwest. It led us to get around that little problem by saying, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything about it. We have e-rate. We have to follow the guidelines.’ We were able to pick a company and upgrade our bandwidth, and the city is still struggling with theirs, so it’s kind of funny.
Casa Grande Public Library, AZ
I mean, the bottom line for me is you could never put enough money and resources into the backbone, because often it’s not the machines on the front that are causing you the problem. It is that you don’t have enough bandwidth to do what your customers want to be able to do on those machines.
Columbus Library, OH
We are experiencing some bandwidth issues. We’ve got kids in after school playing games. And what we discovered is that our ISP has a list of game sites, and when they see those coming through as traffic, they clamp down the bandwidth. So when we’ve got kids in here playing the games, our bandwidth actually gets smaller because it’s shared by the whole community. And I sort of found that out by accident. I had read about it somewhere and called the ISP and asked, and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ Because we thought it was sort of odd that even if we only had one kid playing, it seemed to really slow it down. So we’re sort of negotiating on that.
Lincoln Public Library, CA
E-rate is a pain. It’s time-consuming but for libraries like us, it’s what allows us to do what we do and that’s the biggest motivator right there. We would not be offering the high-speed DSL and the higher-speed bandwidth that we have and the wireless network that we have here in this library if it wasn’t for the reimbursements from e-rate. Our budget simply wouldn’t allow us to do that, and that’s been the case all through the years. E-rate was what allowed us to go from dial-up to Frame Relay because we knew that we were going to get back 80 percent of what we spent, and we tried to do it right from the very beginning as far as kind of following the rules and just plodding along with it, and it’s served us well. I honestly don’t know what we would do if they discontinue it.
Suwannee River System, FL
A number of years ago, when we replaced our network with DSL, we went from Frame Relay to DSL, we had to replace some equipment and we bought Cisco PIX boxes. We really didn’t feel that we wanted to delve into setting up virtual private networks (VPNs) for our library automation system. So we hired someone to set it up and show us how they did it. I called around to some of the other libraries in the area in Florida. We have a pretty good network. I think that I’m pretty well networked with most of the people around, and I got opinions from them. And then I would contact the person and see how I felt about them and how we meshed as far as time and money and so on, and we’ve been fortunate so far.
Suwannee River System, FL
Wide area networking refers to the interconnection of geographically dispersed offices separated by public rights-of-way. The Internet is actually a huge wide area network (WAN), and if your branches are all online, they’re technically already part of the same WAN. However, the Internet lacks the reliability, security and bandwidth that companies need for certain sensitive data and critical applications. In a library context, circulation records, cataloging records and financial records shouldn’t be sent over the public Internet unless they’re encrypted. Moreover, since they’re critical to the work your staff does, you don’t want your colleagues twiddling their thumbs while a batch of cataloging records fights its way upstream against all the YouTube videos and file downloads. So most multibranch library systems eventually create a private WAN. These WANs often do carry Internet traffic for staff and patrons at the branches, but you can control that traffic, keep it separate from staff data and assign it a lower priority than your cataloging and circulation records.
The other technology that we’ve implemented here at one of our branch libraries, and are starting to phase it in here at central library, is Voice over IP telephones, and that provides us [with] a cost savings. We are able to put the telephones on the same network as our data — as our computer network — so that is saving us an infrastructure cost. And from what I have been told, the Voice over IP technology could cut down on the costs of long-distance phone calls also. It’s sharing the same bandwidth as the computer network, so you need to make sure you have sufficient bandwidth for everything that you’re doing there. You do not want everything to go down when somebody starts a streaming video broadcast on one of their computers.Thomas Edelblute
Anaheim Public Library, CA
Our branches are on the same wide area network and different subnets, but we’re going away from that model. We are going to put individual connections in different libraries because the more you send traffic through a central location, the slower things get. Right now, the smaller libraries have 256-Kbps connections, and the first of July they’re going to go to T1s. And then we are going to put in a fiber connection with two T-1s here at the main branch.Jean Montgomery
Our ISP actually owns our routers, so they do all the router maintenance for us. And we go through Merit, which is an ISP for nonprofits in Michigan. They are really easy to work with, and we have never had a problem. This will be our tenth year with them. Actually, the cost of bandwidth went down for us when we went from the 256-Kbps lines to the T-1s this year. It will actually cost less for them to have the T-1 than it was to have the 256. As a consortium, we buy Internet access, and our libraries can buy into that if they want to. But we don’t have all 20 of the libraries that we support doing that.
We have five libraries that don’t come back through the main branch — they have their own firewalls. And we have about ten that actually come through our firewall first before they go out to the Internet.
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation, MI
Every afternoon after 3 P.M., it takes 40 seconds to pull up Google or CNN. Your staff has to wait until the next morning to send cataloging records to a remote branch. Video or audio downloads are out of the question. Your first response might be, “Buy more bandwidth!” and that’s not a bad idea at all, but you might not have enough money to buy more bandwidth. Moreover, some libraries are finding that patrons will fill up everything they’re given. Double your bandwidth, and a month later it’s slow again after 3 P.M. Patrons can use file-sharing applications, such as BearShare, LimeWire and UTorrent, to download several large files simultaneously. Online games, streaming video and streaming audio can also take up large amounts of bandwidth.
There are a few related approaches to managing and controlling bandwidth.
We’ll explore all three approaches.
Our Bandwidth Management Techniques — Tips and Actions tool covers four bandwidth management techniques and suggestions, hardware solutions and software solutions. As with most tools, the specialized hardware devices are usually more powerful and more expensive. If you choose a software solution, you’ll need to install it somewhere. Depending on how much work you expect the software to do, you might make do with running it alongside other programs on an existing server, or you might be able to run it on an old desktop PC.
Bear in mind:
Bandwidth management tools usually reside on the edge of your network and filter all the traffic leaving and entering your network. However, you can also shape the traffic on a particular server or a particular segment of your network. Choosing the right bandwidth management strategy depends on the type of traffic your network typically carries. Therefore, it helps to monitor your bandwidth and pay attention to patterns (e.g., which protocols are taking up the most space).
Even after you’ve looked at the traffic patterns on your network, you should take your graphs to a network administrator or a networking consultant.
Right now, we have a packet shaper from Symphonics, but we’re gonna have to do away with that, because at the time we purchased it, we were expecting that we’d have 3-Mbps of connectivity. Now because [of] our access to the municipal fiber, we’re up to a 100-Mbps connection, and it’s not able to handle that much traffic. So we’re gonna have to do away with that. But we did recently upgrade all of our locations to SonicWALL appliances and that does have some bandwidth management built into it. I don’t think it’s as good as the Symphonics box, but it has some capability. Basically, a traffic shaper is just a traffic cop and you tell it what’s most important in terms of traffic. Is it the library catalog traffic that’s going out to the branches? Is it the people sitting at home trying to connect to your OPAC server or your Web site? Is it the staff browsing the Internet? And you give it a set of priorities and rules, and it just says, ‘Okay, well, there’s too much video-streaming bandwidth being used. You need to wait, and I’m gonna let this library catalog traffic go through.’ And then, once library catalog traffic goes through and there’s a little bandwidth freed up, then the Internet computer users can start seeing their streaming traffic again. But we’ve kind of put [a] priority on the actual business of operating the region as the number one priority for who gets the bandwidth.Jay Roos
When I look at our package shaper, the number one source of traffic is HTTP traffic. But HTTP traffic has been used for so many different things. For instance, you can stream video over HTTP. So it’s hard to determine exactly where that’s all going, but that’s the number one use of bandwidth. When you start going beyond just looking at the protocol information, you almost start getting to the point where you’re doing content filtering or content prioritization. And the device we have does not do that. It’s my understanding that there are devices that can go beyond just the protocol level and actually look inside the packet and see, ‘Well, it says it’s HTTP but I can tell that it’s really video traffic, so they can throttle it back.’
Great River Regional Library, MN
The only problem with bandwidth is you put it in and it’s going to get filled up, especially if they’re doing YouTube and some of the higher-bandwidth types of things. Now there are some devices that will throttle bandwidth for you. We’re part of the CleveNet Consortium. They handle all of our network connectivity for us. I know they’re working with Cisco to get an appliance that will do some bandwidth throttling and do a little throttling with our wireless networks, because honestly, one of the biggest hogs is the public wireless network — people coming in with their own laptops. Because they have LimeWire and BearShare and all the file sharing and BitTorrent types of things on their laptops, and they’re able to do that over HTTP, because it doesn’t use some other weird port. So there’s no good way to stop that. Some of the stuff you don’t want to stop. I mean, you don’t really want to block YouTube. We don’t really want to block a whole lot of anything generally. But how do you throttle that bandwidth and keep those people from completely killing all your bandwidth? So I know they’re working on some appliances that are going to help with that.Jim Haprian
Medina County Library District, OH
One thing I notice is that the more bandwidth you give, the more it’s going to be used. I have a lot of my remote sites that are running two, three T1s and they’re still maxed out. A year ago, they were on just a T1 connection and they were fine. But guess what? It started running slow and I said okay, I’ll bump it up. So I took them up to three T1s and they’re still slow today because I give more bandwidth, and the more bandwidth you give, the more it is being used because I’m not doing any bandwidth shaping, [which is] something now that I’m looking at getting into. I know that with the budget shrinking, it’s going to be hard for me to go and say okay, a couple of years ago I was at 6 Mbps and today I have a 23-Mbps pipe, and I want actually more money to upgrade it. They’re probably going to look at me and say no way, with budgets shrinking. So what I’m trying to do now is I’m looking really closely at my bandwidth and the kinds of traffic, and I’m going to try to start doing bandwidth prioritization and things like that so that I can give more bandwidth to things that we consider core library services.Monique Sendze
Johnson County Library, KS
One of the things that we looked at — we just went to 6 Mbps here at the main library, and they have this MetroNet, I think it’s called MetroNet or something BellSouth has, and it’s supposed to be like 10 Mbps for each branch and then it’s burstable to 100 Mbps based on your usage. That way, if all of a sudden you have a lot of usage, it can go up if it needs to, but it won’t unless it has to. We have experienced some bandwidth issues at some of our branches, and when you’ve got a T-1 at each one, you would think you’d be okay, but I'm telling you, with the downloads and the bandwidth it eats up, you have to go back and think, ‘Well, do I need to manage this?’ Should you buy the device to manage the bandwidth to say I’m only going to give 5 percent here and 5 percent there? Or do we increase the bandwidth, which is going to cost the library system more?Delbert Terry
Bossier Parish Libraries, LA
Looking for more information about bandwidth management for your library? If so, check out the Further Resources section.
Novices to the network world should check out the educational animated movie at the Warriors of the Net site. The Computer Networking section of WebJunction has many resources dedicated to understanding computer networks in libraries.
Along with TCP/IP, Ethernet is the dominant technology in wired local area networks (LANs). Lantronix has a good Ethernet Tutorial, though the third part of it includes too many sales pitches. This tutorial has some information about the different types of cables commonly used in local area networks, but for more in-depth information, see Ethernet Cable Identification and this FAQ on CAT-5, CAT-6 and other cabling standards.
If you’re interested in TCP/IP, the Learn Networking site has an introduction, and they also have a tutorial about subnetting. You can calculate subnets by hand, but a lot of administrators just use a calculator. Microsoft also has some information about IP addressing. If you need to do some basic connection troubleshooting, TCP/IP Troubleshooting at the Microsoft site will teach you to use some basic tools such as ping and ipconfig.
For more information about wireless networking, see Recipes for a 5-Star Library.
The FCC’s article, What is Broadband? defines broadband and discusses its importance and the different types. Our article on Internet Access and ISPs also has information on this subject.
The SANS Institute creates an annual list of the Top 20 Security Risks. While this list may go beyond the scope of the small to medium-sized library, it represents the most accurate compilation of malicious activity on the Internet. Microsoft’s Security Guide for Small Business provides an excellent overview of establishing a secure network.
Microsoft Visio is often used for network diagrams, and libraries can buy it at a discount from TechSoup. Gliffy is an easy-to-use online program with a free and a paid version. Dia and Networknotepad are two free, open-source diagramming programs. Also, most network monitoring programs can automatically create a map of your local area network and/or your wide area network.
Common threats: Infopeople describes Common Security Threats and Vulnerabilities. Microsoft has similar information on pages 5 to 9 of their Security Guide for Small Business. While written a few years ago, Why You Need a Firewall by Cisco also identifies the different types of attacks that are prevalent on the Internet.
Vulnerability Scanning Tools: Nmap is another popular, free tool which scans your network and looks for vulnerabilities. By default it runs from the command line, but you can also find several free graphical interfaces (e.g., Zenmap for Linux and NmapView for Windows). For a short beginner’s guide, see Nmap for Beginners. For a thorough run-down, see Secrets of Network Cartography. Also check out this list of Top 10 Vulnerability Scanners as voted on by security experts. Most of the tools on this list are commercial, and some are quite expensive.
Security Policies 101 highlights several reasons for implementing security policies and also illustrates the difference between technical and administrative policies.
Non-technical Hurdles to Implementing Effective Security Policies by Gary Kessler provides an important non-technical perspective on security policies.
Search Security’s Firewall Architecture Tutorial tells you how to choose firewalls and where to place them on your network. Windows Networking also has an article on Choosing a Firewall. It’s a few years old now but still has relevant advice. A Guide to Unified Threat Management has advice on researching and testing these devices. A Unified Threat Management (UTM) system is a hardware appliance that has firewall capabilities as well other security features (e.g. spam filtering, antivirus filtering, and intrusion detection functionality). Network World’s Firewall Buyer’s Guide is a good resource for comparing specifications, but since it relies on manufacturers to submit information, there are currently no Cisco products listed.
Connectivity Troubleshooting from WebJunction and How to Troubleshoot TCP/IP in Windows XP both explain ping, traceroute and other basic troubleshooting tools. A Survey of Network Monitoring Tools from WebJunction and ABC: An Introduction to Network Monitoring from CIO.com both explain the different functions performed by this type of tool. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center has an exhaustive list of free and commercial solutions.
For advice from the library community, see this thread on Bandwidth Limiting (aka traffic shaping) at WebJunction.
The QoS article on the Gentoo Wiki server tells you how to build your own packet shaper using open-source software, but it also explains the concepts that underlie packet shaping and Quality of Service.
The Options for Network Optimization gives a quick overview of the various techniques used to speed up a WAN link or an Internet connection. WAN Optimization Appliances at the Network Computing site offers a review of four popular optimization tools.
Vulnerabilities and threats to your library’s technological infrastructure can be opposed through proper computer, communications and physical security.
Check out the following list of tools. They have been included to help create a library plan that addresses network security issues.
A wireless network is similar to a wired network, but instead of using cables, it communicates using radio frequency signals. There are dozens of different flavors of wireless networking: Cell phones, satellites and radios all communicate wirelessly. For the purposes of this program, however, the term “wireless networking” refers to a technique for interconnecting computers wirelessly at the building level. This kind of wireless network is sometimes described as wi-fi, an 802.11 network or a “wireless local access network (LAN)” or “WLAN.” These networks have a radius of 300 feet under ideal circumstances.
At a minimum, there are three pieces to a wireless network:
The following chart is an overview of some wireless options.
||TIME AND LABOR
||Basic wireless connectivity
||$50 to $80
||One to two hours
||Increased control over your wireless network
||$500 to $1500
||Variable, depending on what features you want, but gateways are more difficult to configure than a regular access point
||Ease of maintenance
||$500 to $1000 startup cost and $50 per month
||Depends on your package, but providers often perform all setup and troubleshooting for you and your patrons
|A second Internet connection
||$25 to $50 per month
||One to two hours
|A firewall with separate VLANs
||$500 to $1500
||Variable, but firewalls are complex devices, and you may need outside help to configure it properly
Note: Sorting through the variations of this approach can be confusing. You might want to talk to an experienced network consultant first.
Use this “Quick Look” checklist to make sure you’re covering your bases when it comes to crafting a wireless policy for your library.
|POSSIBLE VULNERABILITIES||WHAT TO CONSIDER|
|Patrons can access the staff network
||Use your networking equipment (e.g., router, switch, firewall) to create separate sub-networks for patron computing and staff computing. Network administrators often use Virtual LANs (VLANs) and firewalls to accomplish this. This step is especially important if you have a wireless network for patrons. Some of those laptops will be riddled with viruses and malware. Also, while most patrons have no interest in hacking your network, there's no point in tempting them. For more information on wireless security, see Chapter One of Recipes for a 5-Star Library.|
|You don't have control of critical data
||Where do you keep your patron data, circulation records, financial documents, staff documents and critical databases? Make sure you have a list of all the mission-critical data collections in your library, where they're stored, how they're backed up and who has access to them.
|You haven't secured your servers
||Devices that connect directly to the Internet must be secured. Do you have servers (e.g., Web servers or email servers) exposed to the Internet or your public network? Have the servers been "hardened" by removing all unnecessary applications, services and user accounts? You should not have a Web server that has additional services running beyond what it needs to complete its primary function. The exact steps for hardening a server depend on your configuration, but you should look for advice and see if there are any software tools that might help (e.g., the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer).|
|You aren't taking basic precautions
||All PCs should have the latest operating system updates, the latest software patches and up to date virus definitions. As much as possible, try to automate these updates so they aren't forgotten. For more information, see Chapter Two of A Cookbook for Small and Rural Libraries.
|You haven't paid attention to physical security
||Who has the keys to your building? Are there locks on your server room? Who has keys to that room? Do you have any computers in far-off corners of the library where your staff has a hard time seeing them? If you check out laptops and other equipment to the public, have you thought about theft prevention?
|You aren't backing up critical data on a regular basis
||For more information on backup tools and strategies, see Backing Up Your Data at TechSoup.|
|You aren't testing your backups
||We've heard a few horror stories about libraries who thought they had backups, only to find that the backup tapes were blank or unusable. For more information, see Worst Practices: Don't Test Your Backups at TechRepublic.
|You're using weak passwords
||For advice on choosing good passwords, read Strong Passwords and Password Security at Microsoft.com.
|You have not addressed possible internal security threats
||Many surveys show that internal security breaches are the most common type. Departing, bored and disgruntled employees are potential problems that we sometimes overlook. Design your network with limited and appropriate access. Create policies regarding the process for changing of passwords. When an employee leaves, delete or suspend their user accounts immediately.
|Your staff doesn't understand the risks of social engineering
||Social engineering is a technique that hackers use to trick people into divulging private, secure information. It's still one of the leading causes of security breaches. For example, an employee might receive a phone call from someone who claims to work for your Internet service provider or other technical support. The caller says that he's fixing a problem and needs the user's password to test a possible solution. The employee hands over the information without verifying the caller's identity.
With so many firewall products on the market, trying to fit each into a specific category would be nearly impossible. The following categories provide generalized descriptions of the most typical firewalls for different-sized library networks. The manufacturers listed do not represent recommendations nor are they restricted to any particular category;they are meant to provide common names for each category.
|TYPE||PRICE RANGE||DESCRIPTION||COMMON MANUFACTURERS|
|Basic – Firewall commonly found in homes, small offices and small libraries.
||From $50 - $150
||These firewalls provide basic port forwarding, packet filtering and logging. Although the specification may claim to support more connections, these are generally designed to support networks with 5-10 computers.
||Belkin, DLink, Linksys and Netgear
|Midrange – These firewalls, made by Watchguard, Symantec and Sonicwall, are found in medium-sized libraries with more specific needs and with 10-50 computers.
||From $300 - $700
||These firewalls provide more advanced, stateful packet inspection and technologies such as VPN, user authentication, and content filtering.
||Watchguard, Symantec and Sonicwall
|Advanced – For larger library systems, advanced firewalls offer very high capacity and feature-rich devices.
||From $2,000 to well into five figures
||You will not find these in most small to medium libraries.
||Cisco, Checkpoint and Juniper
|TERM||HOW IT APPLIES TO YOU|
Generally, you only need to be concerned about latency in two situations:
Bandwidth and throughput
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, and though they are related, they’re not quite the same. They both refer to the amount of data transferred between two points on a network in a given period of time. In other words, how many bits per second can you send across your network or over your Internet connection?
|On a day-to-day basis, you’ll usually see them measured in Kbps (kilobits per second), Mbps (megabits per second) or Gbps (gigabits per second). Bandwidth generally refers to a theoretical maximum, while throughput is a real-world, practical measurement. The distinction is relevant because ISPs will usually advertise their bandwidth, which is often higher than the throughput that you’ll actually receive. In other contexts, you’ll see the terms bandwidth, throughput and speed used interchangeably.
Bandwidth vs. latency
If you’re still having trouble grasping the difference between latency and bandwidth (or throughput), this analogy from the Gentoo Linux wiki might help: “Latency is a measure of the time a packet needs to get from point A to point B. Bandwidth measures the amount of data that got from A to B in a certain time. So, if you were to take a dictionary to your friend on the other side of town, your bandwidth would be good, but the latency would be bad (the time spent driving, to be exact). However, if you were to phone your friend and start reading the dictionary to him, the latency would be lower, but the bandwidth would be substantially less than in the first example.”
Uptime or responsiveness
Uptime, sometimes referred to as availability or responsiveness, refers to the amount of time that a computer or a network connection is functioning and usable.
|If you’re buying a leased line, the ISP’s guarantee with regard to uptime should be written into the Service Level Agreement. You also want to measure the uptime of your own hardware and software equipment to see if a device has a recurring problem.
Hardware and software
Your network relies on switches, servers, routers and firewalls, so network monitors can usually track metrics such as CPU utilization, remaining hard drive space and memory use. Also, by sending messages to your Web site, your OPAC and other key applications, your network monitor can track the responsiveness of mission-critical services and software.
There are hundreds of data points you could track on your network, so you’ll have to spend some time talking to your vendor or wading through the documentation.
|BANDWIDTH MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUE||DESCRIPTION||TIPS AND ACTIONS|
|Traffic shapers limit the speed and bandwidth available to certain data streams.
||You can limit a particular type of application (e.g., specify that traffic from file-sharing software can never exceed 200 Kbps), or you can specify how much bandwidth is available to each user. This technique is sometimes known as packet shaping or bandwidth limiting.
|Quality of Service (QoS) complements packet shaping, and it often requires packet shaping to work effectively.
||Packet shaping delays and limits low-priority Internet traffic, which makes room for higher-priority traffic. QoS, in turn, prioritizes the important or delay-sensitive network traffic, making sure it gets sent out before other traffic streams and guaranteeing that it arrives at its destination within a specified time frame (e.g., under 100 milliseconds). Real-time media, such as voice, video and online gaming, react badly to latency and jitter, so they often need QoS. For instance, latency above 145 milliseconds makes Voice over IP calls unlistenable. On the other hand, most of us can surf the Web at much higher latencies without noticing a serious delay, so there’s no point in applying QoS to ordinary Web traffic.
|WAN optimization doesn’t discriminate between traffic streams the way packet shapers and QoS devices do. Instead, optimizers use a variety of techniques to strip out the inefficiencies and redundancies from network traffic. In other words, an optimizer speeds up all the traffic that passes through it.
||Compression and caching are two basic techniques that optimizers use, but there are a variety of advanced algorithms that we won’t get into here. As with the other devices that we’ve discussed, WAN optimizers usually reside at the edge of your network, behind your router or firewall.
|Web caching is a piece of software or hardware that saves copies of recently accessed pages in memory or on a hard drive in order to speed up retrieval.
||If you have 200 patrons surfing the Web on any given day, chances are that they’re accessing the same sites over and over again. Some of these sites are saved, or cached, in the Web browser on each individual desktop computer. If you return to a story you were reading half an hour ago, you don’t have to wait while your browser pulls down a fresh copy from a remote Web site. Instead, your browser shows you the version contained in the browser’s local cache. However, this only helps your personal connection. If the patron next to you wants access to the same article, they can’t get it from your local cache. They have to send another request to the remote Web server and download the same article that you downloaded half an hour ago. A Web caching server acts like a big shared cache for the entire network. All the PCs on the network can be configured to check the server first to see if a copy of the desired page has already been retrieved for someone else.
As with anything IT-related, you have the option to automate all or part of your network inventory. Many different types of software (e.g., asset management programs, network management programs, network inventory tools) have the ability to scan your network and collect information about your existing equipment. However, it takes time to find the right tool, learn it, and integrate it with your networking equipment. If you don’t have a large network, or don’t have the time to investigate network inventory software, use the worksheets provided here.
At the end of each inventory sheet, we’ve included space below for you to record administrative logon information. As always, be careful about how you handle sensitive usernames and passwords. It’s often a good idea to record usernames and passwords in a separate, encrypted file. Also, regardless of how you record logon information, be sure to protect these worksheets and any IT documentation. Even without passwords, a hacker could use the information to compromise your network.
||VLAN INFO (IF ANY)
|ADMIN LOGON||CONNECTED TO
ASSET TAG #
|| DATE PURCHASED
||PURCHASE ORDER #
||TECH SUPPORT PHONE NUMBER
||IP ADDRESS (WIRELESS SIDE)
||IP ADDRESS (WIRED SIDE)
|SSID (i.e., the name of your wireless network)
||ADMIN USERNAME AND PASSWORD
||WIRELESS SECURITY KEY (IF ANY)
ASSET TAG #
||PURCHASE ORDER #
||TECH SUPPORT PHONE NUMBER
|ADMIN LOGON||REMOTE ACCESS||WHERE IS THE CONFIGURATION FILE?
ASSET TAG #
||PURCHASE ORDER #
||TECH SUPPORT PHONE NUMBER
|ADMIN LOGON||REMOTE ACCESS||WHERE IS THE CONFIGURATION FILE?
ASSET TAG #
||PURCHASE ORDER #
||TECH SUPPORT PHONE NUMBER
|EQUIPMENT TYPE (E.G., CABLE MODEL)
|ADMIN LOGON||REMOTE ACCESS INFO
ASSET TAG #
|CONNECTION SPEED (E.G., 1.54 MBPS)||DATE PURCHASED
||PURCHASE ORDER #
||TECH SUPPORT PHONE NUMBER
|Primary DNS Server
|Who Hosts It?
|Secondary DNS Server
|Who Hosts It?
|Web Site URL
|Web Server Software
|Root File Directory
|FTP Server Name
|FTP logon Info
|Web Server Software
|(if hosted internally)
|(if hosted by a third party)
|Web Hosting Company
|Web Host Contact Info
|Account Management URL
|Account Management Logon Info
|Monthly Bandwidth/Storage Limits
|Registered Admin Contact
|Registered Technical Contact
|Registration Login Information
The Internet was first based on the “Web 1.0” paradigm of Web sites, email, search engines and surfing. Web 2.0 is about conversations, interpersonal networking, personalization and individualism, a much higher level of interactivity and deeper user experiences. It is vital that libraries be at the center of these new community conversations. Libraries are traditionally a trusted resource, a community institution that offers universal access and that can now be a point of practical information technology innovation — the third place in the physical and online community (beyond the workplace and home).
Different experts have different ideas about what exactly qualifies as “open-source” software. In general, the term refers to any program with a licensing agreement that allows you to view and modify the source code, which is a series of high-level, human-readable instructions that defines a particular program and tells the computer what to do. Under an open-source license, if you choose to distribute your modifications of someone else’s software, you have to do so under the same terms. Simply put, other developers can view and modify your source code, just as you could view the original code. An open-source license doesn’t require that the software be available free of charge, though that’s usually the case.
For most people, the Linux operating system is the archetypal open-source application and it’s the platform for which most open-source software was designed. There are hundreds of Linux variants (called distros) that differ from one another in look, feel and bundled applications, but all share the same underlying structure (embodied in the Linux kernel). For more information on Linux and Linux distros, see Further Resources.
Skeptics and Windows fans like to say that open-source software is “free like a puppy.” In other words, they argue that the ongoing support and training costs of open-source software will outweigh your initial cost savings. Open-source advocates respond that all technology has support and maintenance costs. The real Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for open-source depends on which program you’re considering and your staff’s expertise.
I think if there’s one thing that makes people gasp and flinch even more than mentioning Macintosh, when they’re used to dealing with PCs, is mentioning open-source. But, like you say, once you get it going and you say, ‘Go ahead, touch it, it won’t bite,’ I think it gets really exciting after that because it’s like, oh, hey, this does work. I think people are still kind of spooked into thinking they’re going to have to sit there and do all kinds of coding or something.Lisa Shaw
Turner Memorial Library, ME
We are actually using, and I talked about this once before, M0N0wall, and we use it for our wireless. It creates what you call captive portals so that way, a page will come up that the user has to accept. And, along with that now, we use Kiwi, so we can get statistics on how many people are using the wireless in certain libraries. Another product I just played with was Cybera, which is actually Internet café tracking software, so if a person wants to use a machine, [the software] will time them, and it will kind of keep statistics on them, and that’s open-source. I’m trying to think of some others. MRTG — that’s from an open-source product. Our listserv is an open- source; it’s just called List Serve Lite. I’m big on open-source because other stuff costs so much money. And, you know, when you are a small library, you don’t have a lot of money, so those are the kinds of things that we’re looking at.Jean Montgomery
Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation, MI
The thin client project was my first major open- source project that we implemented here, the first one that I was responsible for. And it’s gotten a lot easier since those early days, because, for example, Ubuntu has the Edubuntu distribution that already has the thin client server installed on it. You could just potentially do an installation of that and be up and running.Cindy Murdock, Open-Source Guru
We tend to buy a pretty powerful server. I think the one we have now has two dual-core processors on it. I don’t remember their exact specs. Right now, we only have 2 GB of RAM on this one. I’ve been meaning to upgrade it, but the speed is pretty good, so it’s been all right. I also upgraded our internal network to gigabit, so we’re using all gigabit switches. That helps the traffic flow through the network. We have a little [more than] 30 thin clients on the same server. We’re also using 64-bit. The server uses a 64-bit kernel, but I think it serves up 32-bit software.
The Linux terminal server project has a Web site. It’s www.ltsp.org. They have a wiki on there that has a lot of information on how to set it up. Ubuntu also has a lot of documentation on their Web site about setting up a linux terminal server project (LTSP) server. Those are good places to start. I think Edubuntu has a handbook, too, that includes LTSP information.
On our public computers, I use K Desktop Environment (KDE) as the default desktop, because I tried initially locking down Gnome and I used to use IceWM, but KDE is really easy to lock down. You can create different profiles. All the configuration files are text-based, so you can edit those and create a profile for your various user types — like I have one for the online public access catalog (OPAC), one for the [circulation] computers, one for the public Internet computers. Also, we have another one, because we have an on-staff software developer. He just wrote a kiosk management system called LIBKEY. If anybody wants it, it’s on SourceForge. We created a profile just for LIBKEY so that instead of the desktop, a patron first sees a login screen, and they have to log in with their user name and password, and they get half an hour to use the Internet. Then it kicks them off. We’re using that for patron time management to avoid arguments about “I have five more minutes” and the librarian says, “No, you don’t” and that kind of thing. It’s tied into our [circulation] system. We’re using Koha. It grabs the patron database from Koha every night and that’s what it uses for the user name and password.
Meadville Public Library,PA
You don’t need to have an on-staff developer. We wanted to change quite a bit of it. We made our own interface for the [circulation] system to suit ourselves. It’s nice to have a developer on staff if you want to change a lot of things or tweak things. But you can get support from various vendors, like LibLime. There are vendors that do hosted solutions. So if you don’t want to muck around in the database innards or anything like that, you can do that as an option. Since it’s open-source, you can also download it and install it yourself if you want to see how it works. That’s a nice thing, because most vendors don’t give you that option to play with it without paying for it in some way. We’ve been using it since mid-May. We just finished migrating our third library to it just this past weekend. We have nine libraries in the county. I think we’ll be able to get the next few up pretty quickly. We had some issues because we’re encrypting all of our traffic for security reasons on the intranet side, the staff side. We found that it was really slow at the farthest library from the system headquarters. I had to use a hardware solution to get the encryption to speed up. Now that we’ve got that done, I should be able to get the other ones done pretty quickly.Cindy Murdock
Meadville Public Library, PA
We’ve included several additional resources on the topic of open-source software.
Board and card games have a long history in libraries. Most librarians have no problem with a quiet game of chess or gin rummy, and many libraries make these and similar games available for checkout. Video games, on the other hand, haven’t always had the best reputation, so libraries have tended to steer clear of them until recently. The idea that video games cause violent behavior has been strongly disputed, but some librarians still feel that they’re a waste of time with no relevance to our profession. However, there’s more and more evidence that games in general and video games in particular develop a wide range of useful skills. Furthermore, gaming events in libraries can generate great publicity and they create a strong, lasting connection between teens and the one institution in town that actually supports and encourages the activity that they love so much.
Our purpose here is to describe the logistics and details you should think about before you host a gaming program. We will not be covering the steps you need to take to build a collection of video games for checkout, but the Further Resources section will lead you to information on that subject.
And so we have a little teen area. It has this little moveable wall that’s four feet high around this table and that’s the teen area. One of our staff members, Natalia, donated a television, and we had a community member donate a video game system, and I just literally dropped it. I didn’t even hook it up. I just dropped the bag of donated stuff in the middle of the teen area and walked away, and the kids had it set up and playing within minutes; I don’t use a lot of staff time on that. I made a sign and it says if you’re really loud, we’re going to kick you out. If you’re consistently loud we take away the video game system. This is yours. Use it. Please use it but just know that it’s got to be quiet. It’s got to be respectful, and I don’t keep track of who’s playing what or anything. The kids maintain it themselves and they regulate themselves. Usually whoever wins gets to keep the controller and the next kid plays and they don’t really need clipboards. It’s more like sandlot baseball. Pick your teams.Kieran Hixon
John C. Fremont Public Library, CO
We have a projector that hooks up to laptops for PowerPoints and I thought, 'We have to get a video game system and hold a tournament.' What could be better than playing on a screen that’s six feet tall? Let’s get everybody here. The first thing I did was ask people in the community to donate stuff and I got more Xboxes than you can shake a stick at because the community does want to be asked and does want to help.Kieran Hixon
So we did our first tournament. We had two TVs in two different corners. One was a Dance Dance Revolution. One was a driving game, Burnout, I think. We close on Saturdays at 2:00 and so we scheduled the tournament at 2:30, and at 2:15 there was this kid knocking on the back door. Well, we were still setting up and the parking lot’s full of kids! It’s like a riot and we looked outside and sure enough there were 50 kids standing in line and we were 'Oh, my.' We expected maybe twelve, thirteen kids. It was crazy the tournament we had — it went really well.
We made a rule that you had to have a library card without any fines on it; then you could play the video games. The amount of kids we had sign up for cards was outstanding, and the kids that came in that didn’t have library cards said, 'Oh, I haven’t been in here. This place is really cool.' It’s really brought a lot of kids into the library and now we have probably 80, 90 video games and it’s the second highest circulating collection in our library. We have a video game tournament every month. At the last video game tournament sixty kids showed up. Think about it, ‘cause our district’s only 5,000 people.
John C. Fremont Public Library, CO
One of the head librarians gave me a heads-up with Best Buy, and we filled out a form to get some equipment donated to us. And there were two choices — the Wii and the Xbox 360. If we do the Wii, everyone from different generations can more or less adapt to it, and it seems like we can more or less use that for singular tournaments and for gaming tournaments for seniors and stuff like that. But the Xbox 360 has more games. I think either way, whatever one they decide to donate, we'll probably do good either way. And then we asked for the Guitar Hero bundled package.Tanya Finney
Cheltenham Township Library, PA
One of the things we do every Friday afternoon with the laptop lab is we actually invite teens to come in and do online gaming for about an hour and a half before we close.Terry Caudle
In 2005 we bought a PS2 and we put that on the children’s floor in the teen area and we let them play games on that. Then late last year we started doing once-a-month teen gaming after hours for two hours and we’d get pizza in and stuff like that. We were getting about 10 to 12 kids to come in for that. We bought a Nintendo Wii. We had an Xbox donated to us, so we’ve now got three gaming systems for them to use every day when they come in. And then the weekly gaming started about September, a couple months ago, so it was just a case of we had the laptops. Let’s take them upstairs. That way we can put the gaming upstairs and get them out of the Internet room so they can make a little bit more noise up there, and it frees up some of the computers downstairs for other people who want to use them. We’ve got about seven or eight regulars and then we have the odd two or three that sort of drop in.
Madisonville Public Library, KY
Martha Fuhrman is our teen librarian and she got us Guitar Hero II and DDR [Dance Dance Revolution] and she was just telling somebody today that they did a Guitar Hero event at one of our branch libraries and got just a monster turnout of boys coming into the library so, yeah, that’s parting the Red Sea.Stef Johnson
Flathead County Library, MT
To learn more about gaming programs, materials and resources for your library, check out the Further Resources section.
The term Web 2.0 has been around since the end of 2004. Wikipedia, the free user-created Web encyclopedia, defines it as “the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and Web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing and, most notably, collaboration among users.” Web 2.0 is as transformational as the arrival of the Internet itself. It isn’t about technology, but about community, sharing and openness.
Specifically, Web 2.0 can enhance your library’s ability to:
Web 2.0 is about sharing, about making information available where people are — whether it is photos, videos, news, bookmarks, knowledge or shared lives. A key component of Web 2.0 is social software that lets people connect, collaborate and communicate over the Internet. The collaboration may occur in real time (called synchronous collaboration) or at different times (called asynchronous collaboration), while the locations may be across the world or across an office. Most of these tools are free, enabling anyone with access to the technology to be a publisher. The common goal is building communities in which participants constantly give and receive valuable information. The Collaboration Tools Chart, which is available in a downloadable PDF, outlines some of the broad categories of tools available.
Libraries should not only examine how social software can improve services to their patrons, but they should also consider how these tools can improve internal communication and collaboration. While social software tools can improve the ways in which libraries communicate with patrons, they can also improve internal communication and knowledge sharing. Blogs, wikis and social bookmarking each can play a role. A library wiki knowledge base can decrease people’s dependence on their colleagues’ in-person expertise. Blogs are a great way to disseminate news about broken printers or new databases. Social bookmarking can help colleagues share useful Web links.
Libraries can play a greater role in their communities by building dynamic, interactive Web sites, reaching out to users via instant messaging, feeding out content such as library holdings and library news to other community-based Web sites and offering mechanisms for users to create or mash up library content. Before there will be success, however, there must be a commitment by the librarians to sustain successful services and participate in the ongoing conversation. A library’s online presence should never be an afterthought or an aside with just one or two librarians contributing. There should be a collective voice made up of the individuals of the library staff.
Spring 2006 SirsiDynix UpStream
Allen County Public Library has used Flickr for three years in a row to do A Day in the Life of Allen County. They’ve encouraged their community to, on one specific day, take pictures in the community, upload them to their own Flickr account, tag it a specific way or if they want to email it to the library they can, and then Allen County showcases it on their Web site. And the nice thing about that is they’re not sustaining a whole year of capturing pictures about whatever. They're doing it in a really small timeframe.
Columbus Public Library, OH
We have included a large number of resource links related to Web 2.0 reference information and tools.
For a longer definition of open-source licensing and how it differs from commercial, proprietary licensing, see Open Source for Beginners at OSSwatch.
Linux for beginners:
Wikipedia has a good definition of Linux and links to other resources. If you want to know more about the different flavors of Linux out there, see the top ten list on DistroWatch, which compares the most popular Linux distributions. A larger matrix is available on Wikipedia.
Ubuntu for beginners:
For Ubuntu, the official documentation and the User wiki are great resources. In particular, you might want to look at Switching to Ubuntu from Windows and documentation about using the LiveCD. If you’re a visual learner, watch some of the “how to” screencasts. Once you’ve decided want to install it permanently, check out Installing Ubuntu or Dual Boot Ubuntu and Windows. Of course, you should back up important data and get permission from your IT department before you try this.
Open-source software for libraries:
Koha and Evergreen are the open-source projects with the highest profile among libraries and librarians. Koha is an Integrated Library System (ILS) for small and medium-sized library systems. Evergreen is an ILS for large systems and consortia. However, there are dozens of library-centric programs, designed to handle everything from patron management to interlibrary loan. The lists on OSS4Lib, Library Success Wiki and Sourceforge are all good starting places.
In other cases, the library community is extending and adapting software that already exists rather than writing new programs from the ground up. For example, a lot of libraries use Drupal, Joomla, Plone or WordPress to manage their Web presence. Drupal for Libraries, Joomla for Libraries, Plinkit (based on Plone) and Scriblio (based on WordPress) are four sites with more information on the ways that open-source software is being adapted for use in libraries. Also, the Library Success Wiki directs you to numerous sites that help you integrate your Firefox Web browser with your library’s digital resources.
Open-source software for windows:
If you’re not ready to switch your entire library to Ubuntu or another Linux-based operating system, take a look at the Open Source for Windows page. Rather than overwhelm you with a thousand choices, this site lists roughly 60 popular programs that run on Windows and breaks them down into categories. For a more comprehensive list, see the OSSwin Project. If you’re just looking for all the free software you can download, check out these popular freeware sites. But bear in mind that freeware is not the same as open-source, because you usually can’t view or modify the source code of a freeware program.
Introductory material: If you’re having trouble with the gaming terminology, InfoPeople has a handy glossary. Animeted.org has a great discussion of the practical details involved in setting up a gaming event (though some of the technical details are a bit out of date). You’ll also find excellent advice on the Library Success Wiki, including tips and suggestions from libraries with successful gaming programs. And if you want to talk to a colleague about his or her experience with gaming events, the Wiki provides contact information for libraries of all sizes. Gaming the Way to Literacy tells the story of a poor, rural library in South Carolina using gaming to engage youth and promote reading.
Advanced resources: If you’re looking for a longer, more detailed discussion of gaming in libraries, ALA devoted two recent issues of Library Technology Reports to this subject (both edited by Jenny Levine). Also, Eli Neiburger, who manages the highly successful gaming program at Ann Arbor Public Library, has written a book about gaming tournaments. Finally, the library gaming listserv is a great place to ask specific questions. If you’re really excited about the intersection of games and libraries, you might attend the second annual Gaming, Learning and Libraries Conference this November or read up on the latest academic research being conducted at the Library Game Lab.
Gaming blogs: There are too many blogs covering this topic to mention them all, but Game On and The Shifted Librarian are especially strong on library gaming. ALA also has some great postings at their Gaming News site.
Everything You Need to Know About Web 2.0 TechSoup explains ways nonprofits can benefit from the use of emerging technologies.
Five Weeks to a Social Library The first free, grassroots, completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their libraries. It was developed to provide a free, comprehensive and social online learning opportunity for librarians who do not otherwise have access to conferences or continuing education and who would benefit greatly from learning about social software.
Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, by Michael E. Casey and Laura Savastinuk. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. 2007.
Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries This article by Jack M. Maness of the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries addresses the application of Web 2.0 social software in libraries.
Library 2.0: Service for the Next-Generation Library, by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, Library Journal, 2006. This article brought the concepts of Web 2.0 into the library arena, dubbing them Library 2.0. Explains “long tail,” collaboration, social networking, tools and services for today’s users.
OPAL: Online Programming for All Libraries is a collaborative effort by libraries of all types to provide free Web-based programs and training for library users and library staff members. You can find free courses, such as the Ten Top Technologies for Librarians, Day of the Digital Audio Book, Wikis and How to Google: An Introduction to Searching the Web.
SirsiDynix Institute includes free Webinars on blogs and libraries, Library 2.0, gaming, etc.
Techcrunch profiles and reviews Internet products and companies.
The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation, Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute.
The Machine Is Us/ing Us is a YouTube video that explains the dynamic Web.
Web 2.0 This Wikipedia article does a good job of explaining the various services that make up Web 2.0 and the technologies behind it.
Web 2.0 and Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software This article from ALA's TechSource by Michael Stephens of Tame the Web, discusses how Web 2.0 social software can be put to use in libraries.
WebJunction’s Online Courses Everything from basic computing skills to training on advocacy and outreach.
WebJunction Webinars Live and archived free Webinars on topics including technology, training and outreach.
ALA TechSource Blog is published by the American Library Association with authors Michelle Boule, Michael Casey, Michael Golrick, Teresa Koltzenburg, Jenny Levine, Tom Peters, Karen G. Schneider and Michael Stephens.
BlogJunction is WebJunction’s blog authored by WJ staff and will keep you up-to-date on WJ events, programs and staff observations.
Information Wants to Be Free by Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Librarian at Norwich University, includes posts regarding the library profession and technology.
It's All Good is maintained by five Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) staff members, with posts about “all things present and future that impact libraries and library users.”
MCLC Library Tech Talk. Blog of a technology interest group in Maricopa Country, AZ. Profiles a different Web 2.0 tool every Friday.
LibrarianInBlack is by Sarah Houghton-Jan, Information and Web Services Manager for the San Mateo County Library, who writes “resources and discussions for the ‘tech-librarians-by-default’ among us.”
LibraryCrunch: Service for the Next-Generation Library — A Library 2.0 Perspective, by Michael Casey.
Stephen’s Lighthouse by Stephen Abram, SirsiDynix’s Vice President of Innovation, includes his thoughts on library technology issues and notes from his national presentations.
Tame the Web: Libraries and Technology by Michael Stephens, Instructor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, focuses on Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, technology-related articles and presentations and technology trends.
The Shifted Librarian by Jennie Levine, Internet Development Specialist and Strategy Guide, American Library Association, contains posts on technology gadgets, gaming and social technologies.
Podcasts: These are audio-only broadcasts that can be downloaded for free online.
CNET Networks Includes podcasts such as Buzz Out Loud, Gadgettes and MP3 Insider.
Talking with Talis Listen to conversations about the interface between Web 2.0, libraries and the Semantic Web.
TWiT: This Week in Tech Free podcasts on technology topics.
PLCMC’s Learning 2.0 project, an online self-discovery program that encourages the exploration of Web 2.0 tools and new technologies, specifically, 23 Things.
Princeton Public Library’s wiki for a summer reading club.
Infodoodads Librarians review online info tools.
Superpatron. Edward Vielmetti is a patron of the Ann Arbor District Library and a member of its Technology Advisory Board.
Hennepin County Library offers RSS feeds, comments within library catalog and Amazon links from the catalog.
Lansing Public Library Home Page The Lansing Public Library in Illinois offers RSS feeds and podcasting.
Wadsworth Public Library in Ohio is using MySpace for teen programming.
Western Springs History This is a joint project of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library and Western Springs Historical Society. It uses blog software to share photographs and collect comments from the public.
Westerville Public Library -- Celebrate Westerville's 150th Anniversary. This is a great example of the power of Flickr, used to create a timeline and show images of the town’s history.
The Coastal Resource Sharing Network (CRSN) is a consortium of public and academic libraries serving Tillamook and Lincoln counties in Oregon. Their staff intranet includes email contacts for all library staff, documentation, policy documents, reports, events, current and historical collection and circulation statistics, and a Staff Toolkit of special tools for staff use, including the Weed-O-maker, to generate shelf lists for weeding, reporting or other purposes.
Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan, has an innovative online presence created through the use of an open-source content management system, several blog mechanisms that allow easily updated content to display on the front page and a dedication to interaction with library patrons. AADL has created a thriving community with an online branch. In the teen area and gaming blogs, it is not unusual to see discussions with more than 200 comments.
Public classes at ImaginOn, a collaborative venture of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte include:
Princeton Public Library offers an amazing array of technology classes for the public, including “Fantastic Freebies for Everyone,” which focuses on free Web 2.0 tools. Here’s the class description: “Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a ‘free lunch,’ and you can find it on the Web. The number of free services, sites and downloads is multiplying monthly at an astonishing rate in a new era of Internet innovation. This class will take you on a tour of some of the hottest freebies currently available. Everything from system tools to image editors to word processors and much more can all be found online for no cost. This session will ensure you know where to find the newest and most useful tools to keep you on the cutting edge of technology.”
Web 2.0 services and concepts make it easier to facilitate group use of information and allow for the creation of new data and value for library members. We hope you’ll find the following tools greatly beneficial as you select and apply Web 2.0 to drive and implement innovation in your library.
By creating an environment of continuous learning, by finding ways to stay aware of changing trends and needs, and by staying committed to thoughtful planning, it is possible to achieve that future-focused service vision in your rural library.
How can your library achieve goals and prepare for an unknown future? When doing strategic technology planning, here are seven key areas to consider:
|CATEGORY||EXAMPLE OF TOOLS|
|Blogs and microblogs — Short for “Weblog,” a blog is an easily updated Web site, generally in reverse-chronological order by date. These Web sites range from personal diaries to professional tools, and you can often subscribe to them via RSS using an aggregator. Often, they contain links to and comments on other online information. Microblogging involves sending brief posts to a personal Web space or a microblog site (such as Twitter). Microblog posts are short (Twitter limits them to 140 characters). Blogs represent the fastest-growing medium of personal publishing and the newest method of individual expression and opinion on the Internet.||
Blogger Blogging software owned and powered by Google.
Movable Type Blogging platform for organizations.
Twitter A microblogging service that allows users to immediately share short (140 characters) snippets of content via text messaging, the Web and other interfaces. The New York Times called Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” TIME Magazine said, “Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app.”
WordPress Personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, Web standards and usability.
|Social bookmarks and tags — This involves online services that allow you to store your bookmarks online, categorize them and share them with other site visitors interested in similar topics. Tags are descriptive terms to categorize online content. Tagging content allows it to be shared with others interested in similar topics; multiple tags can be given to the same content. Also referred to as “folksonomies,” created by folks.||
Delicious A “social bookmarking” site. Users can store URLs, personal comments and descriptive tags to organize Web pages. It is like a Favorites folder that is located on the Internet, and it can be accessed from any computer.
Digg Digg is a user-driven social content Web site, where news and online content are submitted and rated through online votes and displayed in order of most votes.
Squidoo is an easy-to-build Web page that can point to blogs, favorite links, RSS feeds, Flickr photos, Google maps and/or eBay auctions.
SuprGlu helps you gather your content from all over the Web and publish it in one place.
|Multimedia sharing (including audio, photo and video) — Podcasting involves putting audio content on the Internet, and may be delivered via RSS feeds so that subscribers receive new content automatically. Podcasts can be downloaded to iPods or other players, or listened to on a computer. Screencasting is the capture of a video of computer screen activity (for example, to show people in real time where to click, what to type or to capture video for tutorials, presentations, etc.).||
Audacity is free, open-source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. Many libraries offer podcasts of book talks, library news items and book reviews.
Camtasia and CamStudio are common screencasting tools. Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application that includes the use of tagging. You can share your favorite photos with the world or securely and privately show photos to only your friends and family.
Live Plasma allows users to map music and movie interests.
Pandora makes a streaming “radio station” just for you, based on your ratings of favorite music.
Picasa is a free software download from Google that helps you find, organize and share your photos.
SlideShare provides a place to share and discover slideshows and presentations.
YouTube has been called the “million-channel people's network” and allows for the viewing and uploading of videos.
|Collaboration, projects and productivity — The collaboration and community evident in Web 2.0 even led TIME Magazine to name the Person of the Year in 2006 as “You.” The magazine designated Web 2.0 as a revolution and a massive social experiment. “The new Web is…a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.…it's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”||
Furl allows you to save a copy of your favorite Web sites with 5 GB of free storage space.
Google Docs and Spreadsheets provides an online tool for individual or group document creation and editing.
SurveyMonkey.com is a tool to create and publish custom online surveys in minutes and then view results graphically and in real time.
Ta-da Lists creates simple, sharable to-do lists.
Writeboard creates sharable, Web-based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version and easily compare changes.
Zoho offers a suite of online Web applications geared towards increasing productivity and collaboration. Includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, presentation tool, hosted wiki, notebook, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, etc.
|Gaming — This is not just for fun! Libraries find that offering gaming attracts teens and young adults to other library services and is a good marketing technique.||
eGames Generator allows you to create your own custom learning games. Since eGames Generator is online software, there are no downloads or installations necessary: You can create a game in just a few minutes.
Neopets involves keeping a pet alive in this online community; great for children.
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Not just a game, there are opportunities for communicating with the public, including in the library on “Info Island.”
|Instant messaging and communication — Differs from email in that conversations are able to happen in real time. Most services offer an indication of whether people on one’s list of contacts are currently online and available to chat. This may be called a “Buddy List.” In contrast to emails or phone, the parties know whether the peer is available. Examples include AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Yahoo! and MSN, also embedded in gmail.com, Facebook, etc.||
Meebo is a Web-based instant-messaging application that combines all the major IM services into one.
Skype is an Internet call software and service.
Trillian is a software application for instant messaging. Compatible with all the major IM applications.
Library and book-related tools — People are doing library-related things online for fun!
Social software can provide ways to communicate, collaborate, educate and market services to patrons and other community members. Libraries can be the online hub of their communities just as they have traditionally been the physical community center. Often, a library is the only place where someone can get free connectivity, free training and free assistance and access to technological information.
Goodreads and Shelfari. Like Facebook and MySpace, users sign up for an account, post a profile, add friends, create personalized online bookshelves, find reading recommendations based on friends' shelves and reviews, connect with authors and the literary community, read about book signings and view excerpts.
Library Elf is a personal reminder service for library users that will send library notifications, such as overdue reminders with email alerts and text message alerts for holds.
LibraryThing catalogs your books online, easily, quickly and for free.
Scriblio (formerly WPopac) is a free, open-source CMS and OPAC with faceted searching and browsing features based on WordPress.
Mashup Dashboard lists hundreds of mashups, with new updates daily.
Web 2.0 Mashup Matrix is a programmable Web 2.0 mashup.
Yahoo! Widgets allows you to create, find and rate widgets.
|“Real Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary” (RSS) and aggregators — You can subscribe to RSS-enabled blogs, newspapers, journals and other online content so that updates automatically come to you, rather than having to return to the original site to see if new material has been posted. It’s a way of packaging Web items such as blog entries in a stripped-down, XML-based format so that they can be imported into other Web pages. Most blog-hosting services automatically create RSS versions of blog posts. That means bloggers can “syndicate” their content across the entire Web, while readers can subscribe to RSS feeds. An aggregator, news reader or feed reader is a usually free service that allows you to subscribe to and read blogs, news or any type of feeds in one customized Web page. It is client software that uses a Web feed to retrieve syndicated Web content. Subscriptions can also be created for podcasts, photos, searches or other media. Web sites publish updates — called “feeds” — that indicate when new content has been posted. Aggregators automatically update and keep track of what you’ve read!||
Bloglines is a Web-based RSS reader, which includes blogging capabilities.
FeedBurner is a provider of media distribution and services for blogs and RSS feeds. It offers tools to assist bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers promote, deliver and profit from their content on the Web.
Google Reader is Google’s RSS reader in its “lab.”
NewsGator Online is a free, Web-based RSS aggregator.
|Search engines — Search technologies today have moved beyond traditional content retrieves. They are now designed to combine existing Internet search engines with new and improved models that allow for stronger connections to user preferences, collaboration, collective intelligence and a richer user experience.||
BlogPulse is an automated trend discovery system for blogs. BlogPulse applies machine-learning and natural-language processing techniques to discover trends in the dynamic world of blogs.
Google Blog Search allows you to find blogs on your favorite topics.
LibWorm: Librarianship RSS Search and Current Awareness is intended to be a search engine, a professional development tool and a current awareness tool for people who work in libraries or care about libraries.
Podscope lets you search the spoken word for audio and video that interests you.
Podzinger is an audio and video search engine.
Technorati searches and organizes blogs and other forms of user-generated content (photos, videos, voting, etc.).
Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines Online Education Database’s Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines.
|Social and collaborative networks — Researchers are discovering that beyond the original digital divide, separating those who owned technology from those who didn’t, there is now an increasing social divide, termed technocultural isolation. Social technologies are connecting people and providing communication structures in more ways than ever before. Even teens are conversing and networking across countries and cultures. Those who do not have continual access to these tools will be isolated and at a societal disadvantage, particularly in the workforce.||
Classmates.com allows you to connect with school friends.
Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.
FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date and discuss the Web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing.
Friendster is a social network emphasizing friendships and the discovery of new people through friends. Search for old friends and classmates, stay in better touch with friends and share photos and videos.
LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of professional contacts.
MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends’ friends and share day-to-day events.
Ning allows creation of public or private social networks, including groups, forums and sharing.
WebJunction is an online library community, created by librarians for librarians, and includes articles, forums, etc.
|Wikis — Collaborative Web sites where anyone can create new content or edit existing content. Share staff knowledge through wikis, communicate regarding policies and brainstorm on projects.||
Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki This wiki was created to be a one-stop shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians.
LISWiki The Library and Information Science Wiki, a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
PBwiki lets you quickly set up your own free, hosted, password-protected wiki to edit and share information. It’s as easy as a peanut butter sandwich.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that allows anyone to add or edit the entries. With over 10 million articles written in 253 languages, it is the world’s most comprehensive (though not most reliable) reference work. It may be the largest collaborative literary work in history. Wikipedia proclaims it is a project that attempts to summarize all human knowledge.
It’s all about sharing information, just using new tools. Instead of pencils, card catalogs or even databases, it’s blogs, wikis and del.icio.us. There are millions of blogs and online resources. The library cannot track and keep up with everything. Create teams and pilot Web 2.0 projects. Some key ideas include:
Instant messaging is important, and Meebo in particular seems to be a library favorite, as it is easy to use and to add to an existing library Web site (see www.lib.berkeley.edu/math). Meebo adds value to a static Web site without requiring big changes. Instant messaging with Meebo “pushes” your reference service where it’s needed the most — side by side with other instantaneous services. But the true value point is the human being — moderating and interacting with the community.
Recipes for a 5-Star Library allows you to “stir up” the interest of your community members by building and sustaining your library technology. In this Cookbook, you’ll find all the ingredients you need to install a wireless network, solve issues of printing and time management, and implement a laptop checkout program! This Cookbook is based on the ideas and feedback from librarian “chefs” throughout the country, serving up their proven recipes for technology success. These topics are covered:
Download the entire Cookbook (pdf, 6.27 MB)
Once you've used the Cookbook, please take a moment to complete this anonymous survey. Thank you.
A Cookbook for Small and Rural Libraries focuses on the experiences of smaller sized libraries, however this Cookbook covers fundamentals that are valuable for any library, and is a great resource for someone wanting to know a bit more about supporting and sustaining public computers. Learn about locking down public computers, use a handy maintenance checklist, and more! These topics are covered:
Download the entire Cookbook (pdf, 3.62 MB)
CORRECTION: Download page 32 pdf (33 KB)
Once you've used the Cookbook, please take a moment to complete this anonymous survey. Thank you.