Report on first site visit
On Sept. 13, we met with Debra Lissak, UFL Executive Director, Anne Phillips, Director of Adult
Services, and John Gehner, Adult Services Librarian and Tech Volunteer Program Coordinator.
We toured the UFL, looking at the main circulation areas, the computing center, the teen area, the children’s area, and the auditorium. We conducted our meeting in the downstairs conference room. It was big enough for our group, but not very large, and it contained no computing technology.
The UFL’s computing center had around 40 computers on individual desks, many facing each other or up against the wall. The area was almost completely full of users. It was fairly bright, although not with natural light, but was not very welcoming, and the desks did not allow for easy collaboration. There was a printing station with two printers and scanning machinery. There were also a few glass-walled rooms with tables and chairs for group work, although they had no computers in them. The whole computing center is close to the upstairs reference desk for ease of oversight and nearness of technical support.
During our discussion with the library staff we learned that they use the Envisionware PC Reservation system on their computers to allow users to reserve computers during busy times, although they do not boot users if there is no one waiting for access to a computer. They also no longer monitor or filter the internet, and have seen a reduction in behavior problems. Some of the computers do require library cards to log-in, especially the special stations such as those for seniors, although many are open access public computers.
Their computers do not have right-click functionality, as part of their computer security system. Additionally, the computers are not networked in a way that allows for central access, so each computer must be updated manually and individually. They were interested in the possibility of centrally linking the computers.
Their primary concerns are space, since they are working within the restrictions of an extant building, and the determination that they need to be able to keep at least some level of oversight on the computers. They were possibly open to moving some of the computers out of the central location, but had some reservations, as they do not want to have to increase their staffing and are concerned about still being able to answer patrons’ tech. questions. They also have wiring constraints, as re-wiring the building would be very expensive, and they don’t have the funding to do so at this point.
With regard to new technology, they indicated that they might be able to get some laptops through a partnership with Parkland Community College, which has received a grant, although they want to know more about whether they would be used before committing to such a project. They are also interested in working with the Urbana Public Television program, which received a grant to develop community programming, and if so, they would need software to allow community members to develop and schedule programming. The UPT program is currently not making much headway, however, so this project may not be a priority.
Their wishlist includes additional meeting space, which is problematic within the existing UFL footprint. They would also like multi-media projectors, but only if they could be set up to require very little staff involvement, as they would not have staff in the areas where the setups would be installed. They do not currently have a dedicated gaming section or a dedicated youth area, although they do have a substantial childrens’ section with computers and childrens’ computer games.
They are most interested in separating out sections of their technology center for various uses, allowing for quiet sections where individual users can run businesses, do banking, and participate in other solitary activities. They would also like a section for group work where multiple users can interact without disturbing the quiet users. They know that some users want to be able to do collaborative work, but that is difficult within the constraints of the current system.
They indicated that they would like us to provide a design ideal that can be broken down into steps, and want us to focus on design from a public service Point-of-View. This meeting left us with many possible ideas, but no concrete decision on what to focus on for our project.
Vision, mission, and goals of community organization
The mission of The Urbana Free Library is:
To select, acquire, organize, and promote the use of a wide range of books and other communications media in order to meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of the citizens within its taxing jurisdiction.
To provide the physical space necessary for citizens to consult library materials in comfort and to meet with one another as part of the Urbana community.
To provide unusually friendly and personal service to all Library users.
In establishing this general mission statement, the Library recognizes that public libraries are institutions with multiple goals, providing a wide range of services to a wide range of individuals, that no simple mission statement can encompass the entire range of appropriate Library activities, and that the evaluation of the relative merit of Library activities is a complex process that will of necessity involve the continued attention of the Board of Trustees and the Library staff.
Technology Vision Statement
In keeping with this mission, The Urbana Free Library is committed to the use of technology
to improve the quality, scope, and efficiency of library services. The library continually
reviews and adopts new technology to enhance the library experience of its users, to help
library users achieve their goals, to improve access to information, and to improve
employees’ ability to perform their duties.
Population(s) served (Specifically by the computer lab)
- UFL staff are reluctant to generalize about user populations saying that a very diverse group of people use the computers. However, they estimate that 50% of users are African American (a higher percentage than the general population.
- The majority of lab users are there because they have no other access to computers/internet
Specific groups of note:
- Teens: In the afternoon, the lab is frequented by many students from the local middle/high schools. (This can create problems)
- Job seekers: Many users search for/apply for jobs in the lab. This group often needs special resources/attention.
Ways in which technology is expected to support existing programs and/or help foster new programs
The way the system is designed now, each computer needs to be updated individually, which often results in the machines not being able to serve patrons effectively. In one particular case, Parkland students often need to access specific programs and websites associated with textbooks (perhaps that require the latest versions of Java or other programs) and aren’t able to because the computers are not always up to date.
By and large, the lab computers contain programs that serve basic computer needs: word processing (MS Office, OpenOffice), internet access (IE, FireFox), and several media players (VLC, iTunes, RealPlayer). There are also options for editing and creating media (Audacity, Adobe, CDBurnerXP). Since the primary users of these machines don’t have access to computers at home, these programs serve their basic needs (e.g. updating resumes, checking e-mail).
First thoughts on technologies you are considering as part of your project plan
- We primarily want to look for technologies that are going to make the entire lab more usable
- Some way to network the computers or use a virtual set-up in order to update everything at once (or would this be more of a remote access type tool?) – there is software available that allows you to set up one workstation and then duplicate it to many other computers (e.g. Ghost software)
- Possibly tweak security settings of Steady State in order to allow patrons to download certain programs
- Most lab management software seems to be for teachers/classrooms so it allows for screen sharing, locking users out, etc. – stuff the library is not really interested in! (don’t need this much control)
- Not much in the way of “job-hunting” software but can make a point to have resume templates, links to job sites, and more
- For teens the more intense monitoring might be acceptable – also want to focus on media creation and display
- Simple “technology” such as screen blockers
First thoughts on design considerations for your project plan
- Looking at floor plans–this will give us plenty of information on the space that we want to work with. We’ve talked to John and other librarians about the spaces that we could probably use, and the places that will not work.
- Survey some areas in the library and get an ideal on the space we can use.
- Looking at other libraries like Champaign Public Library and other libraries to see how their teen and adult areas are set-up. Also, we will find out if the design of these spaces are working well for these libraries.
Your next steps
- Establish regular meetings – this has proven to be one of our greatest challenges. With a group this large, getting everyone into one room is difficult! We are going to look into meeting on Elluminate as a possible solution
- Get a floor plan and study the space – John will be providing us with blue prints to the building so that we can gain a better understanding of the space. We have also begun taking pictures of the space to help us learn
- Learn about Steady State and other technologies the library is currently using – we want to gather information regarding the existing library technology, what it can do, how it can be adjusted/tweaked, problems that users/librarians have with it, its limitations, and alternatives where necessary
- Learn about other library configurations – the librarians we have met with expressed an interest in knowing how other libraries have successfully arranged their space and utilized various programs. We intend to look into this and use information we gather to inform our design plan
- Brainstorming – we need to do some thinking!