Technology, What Students Want Regarding

MPOW is considering moving towards a learning commons. In preparation for this, we have conducted a survey and a focus group in conjunction with campus IT. The things that came out of the focus group were not that unsurprising. Some of the key complaints were

  • The library is not open long enough (our central computing site is open 24/7)
  • There are no quiet computing areas for test taking and serious paper writing.
  • Because the library is open to the public, there are safety concerns from students.
  • The library’s computers were seen as having out-dared software and did not have enough flexibility for the students. (This was a major concern for them)

The last point is a concern for me too. As I said in my previous post, our technology policy often troubles me. We give a lot of excuses for the way things are the way they are, but excuses do not solve our problems. Why can’t we have the latest version of software on our computers? Why do I know more about solving Office problems then some of the library IT guys? Our students want more tech support, but they are stuck with a truly hit or miss with whatever librarian is at the desk and library IT guys whose forte is not always the software on the computers.

Are there ways that we can be more open and protect our systems at the same time? Our campus IT site lets the students do more and they have not spontaneously combusted. Are there any IT people reading this who have solved this problem in your libraries?

–Jane, wants to solve the problems, not just bitch about them

8 thoughts on “Technology, What Students Want Regarding

  • April 21, 2006 at 3:49 pm
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    Here’s a thought–we could actually have the latest versions of things on our computers and routinely download patches, etc.

    This has been another day when I think to myself, well, when we hired the person in charge of these things, it was very important to me that we “open up” our computing environment. Too bad I wasn’t on that search committee, huh? I see another opportunity before us…

  • April 21, 2006 at 5:06 pm
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    I have discussed my past experience with our Systems department many times, which has led them to share some theoretical concepts that have yet to come to fruition. The idea is having key people in each department with the ability (and permissions) to download and install updates, troubleshoot problems, etc..

    In my last job, the computer folks entrusted me with an administrative password for two reasons: 1) I was competent enough to handle the problems that arose, and 2) they realized their own inability to be everywhere and handle all problems at the same time.

    With the understanding that a learning commons will also involve the inclusion/consolidation of IT staff, any new facility will require a much greater hands-on presence. At the same time, the librarians and staff that will be responsible for the success of a learning commons have to be trusted with the tools to help the students accomplish their goals.

    Things are only going to get more complicated. They need to bring us in now before they lose control of the whole thing!

  • April 22, 2006 at 12:49 pm
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    Our library ‘lab’ computers (we’re not really a lab, but the students think we are) is made up of computers of the same specifications — they’re all ordered at once. This allows the IT guy who manages them to image them all off of one computer, so that when he changes, updates, upgrades, or repairs one computer, the same thing happens to all of them. Thus, managing 30 computers becomes the act of managing ONE computer. The time savings is immeasurable, and thus the willingness to keep them up-to-date is magnified tenfold.

    They’re also deep-freezed, so that students can download whatever they want or need, and when they log off, the machine is reverted back to it’s pre-logon state. That way, the kids have the flexibility to download and use whatever they need that’s not already on it, and when they’re done, there’s no trace of what they did. It prevents the computers from getting bogged down by viruses, spyware, and unnecessary software installations.

    So. I dunno what exactly you’ve got going on — but flexibility and responsiveness are possible! I promise!

  • April 23, 2006 at 1:24 pm
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    I understand controlling installations on library computers on a system-wide basis, but the trade-off for that control is that IT has to be responsive to needs. On the other hand, they take their marching orders from someone. Who sets priorities? Who decides what happens and what doesn’t happen? How do tasks such as updating software get on IT’s schedule?

    It also sounds as if there needs to be clarity regarding who provides what service. Staff probably are going to resolve students’ application issues, but if that’s the case then staff need training and empowerment.

    I see issues here of delegation, communication, and coordination.

    Does the library have a technology plan?

  • April 24, 2006 at 9:07 am
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    We do have a technology plan, but other than when computers get phased out I am not sure what it entails. I like Jenica’s idea of the “deep freeze.”

    We do not even have Firefox on the public computers or on the computers at the reference desk which tends to make me a little batty.

  • April 24, 2006 at 12:24 pm
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    Deep freeze software is great.

    A good technology plan is everyone’s working document… a road map for everything from hardware replacement schedules to how IT problems are resolved.

    Good luck with the boot camp!

  • April 24, 2006 at 6:35 pm
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    Actually, Jane, I mentioned Deep Freeze software to the Systems folks when I started last year. We used it in my last library. I’m told it is being used in a limited fashion already. You have to use it hand-in-hand with updating profiles on a regular basis – which makes it hard to be lazy about keeping things updated.

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