Tag WiFi

library frustration: a story in three tweets

I have a panel in TweetDeck that displays a search for the terms library OR librarian. I filter the word iTunes out of the search because plenty of people tweet about their iTunes libraries evidently. I check it a few times throughout the day because it is nice to get a little snapshot of what people are doing in libraries throughout the world. I often read about people studying, returning books, sleeping, and hanging out. Since I don’t work in a library anymore it is nice to have a small reassurance that there are indeed people out there frequenting them. On occasion there are some tweets that really show some insight into people’s perceptions and opinions of libraries.




[originals: 1, 2, 3 ]

(some) free wifi from starbucks

If Starbucks junkies want wifi they have to pay T-Mobile a usurious fee, but not for too much longer. Starbucks is ditching T-Mobile and partnering with AT&T which creates a nice little Starbucks, iTunes Music Store, AT&T, iPhone niche. A result of this switch is 2 free hours of wifi per day for people that use Starbucks loyalty cards. Or maybe 2 hours per loyalty card regardless of who is using it. I’m already thinking how the system is going to be gamed.

This will likely result in more people putting money on Starbucks cards and more people visiting Starbucks locations. The program must be the result of Starbucks learning from libraries and other sensible places that offer free wifi. I wonder how much traffic Starbucks would divert from libraries if they offered unlimited free wifi. Whatever the case, I’ll stick with my local favorite.
[photo credit]

more thoughts on a cafe branch

In my last post, late night wifi, an opportunity for libraries?, Eric Frierson comments that he liked the idea, but also that he’s

…not sure why it should be a *library* venture if the purpose is to provide coffee, free wifi, and non-circulating magazines.

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that the concept of a cafe branch is a great idea. Libraries are doing the reverse and putting coffee shops in libraries, why not go all the way and put a library in a coffee shop? The idea doesn’t seem that radical to me. Here are some characteristics of my hypothetical cafe library branch:

→ provides access to information
→ has some computers available
→ provides help finding things (if asked)
→ provides access to content (magazines, newspapers, some books strewn about)
→ is a community gathering place
→ holds some special events
→ has reservable group study space

Pretty traditional stuff, right? People might bristle at this idea not because of the traditional services it would provide, but what it would lack. In particular, a collection of books.

Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, let me be clear. I’m not saying that all libraries should be like this, just that this model is an option. Libraries can certainly be much more than what I’m describing here, and they should be. However, libraries don’t always have to strive to be their full incarnation 100% of the time. Just like a small neighborhood branch probably doesn’t have an extensive collection of periodical back issues, so my hypothetical cafe library could shed some library baggage to free it to explore new territory. The geographical language is appropriate. Without large collections to house, the relatively small cafe library can fit into spaces that other branches couldn’t. (Wouldn’t it be great to have space for picking up and returning holds though?) This might allow it to be located in vital and busy areas with tons of foot traffic.

I know you didn’t get a Masters degree to serve coffee. No big deal, it wouldn’t be part of your job. The “shift supervisor” could be a “for real librarian,” managing staff and doing other librarian work like monitoring the library’s IM reference service.

I’m not convinced this idea would work in every context or community, but sitting here in Little Beirut where many people are fueled by their neighborhood coffee shops, I can think of a number of cities where this would work.

This library cafe branch would not just be a means to the end of getting people to use other library resources. It would be legitimate on its own, but wouldn’t it do a good job marketing the larger library too? Among the locally made art on display there would be adverts for relevant library events. Each time someone logs into the wifi network they’d be greeted with list of library resources and be authenticated into library databases. Oh, and how about this? People don’t need a library card to access the wifi, but customers get a 50% discount on coffee and food when they sign up for one. And a 10% discount on each transaction when they present the card.

In a certain sense, a cafe branch would be for a niche market. This is a good thing because we know that niche markets can become obsessively enthusiastic about their interests. Because they’re often concerned with trying to be many things to different people, libraries often miss out on capturing this passion. Last time I checked, we want people passionate and excited about libraries. Having a narrower focus might be one way to cultivate more use and zeal for the library.

late night wifi, an opportunity for libraries?

From the Portland Mercury’s Blogtown PDX: Late Night WiFi in Inner SE?

There are lots of coffee shops in my ‘hood during the days and evenings with wifi, but I’m specifically looking for a place I can go on a Friday night that’s open at least until midnight, and won’t be so cacophonous and crazy that I’ll have to worry about either not having anyplace to sit down, or having some staggering drunk spill beer on my keyboard on their way to the blasting jukebox.

I still think that the neighborhood cafe complete with wifi, magazines (for browsing, not checking out), a jukebox and attractive librarian baristas is a totally viable service opportunity in many places. It would be a natural space for community events and book groups. Perhaps even more natural than newspapers and bars hooking up and hosting movie discussions. Come to think of it, running a library branch like that would be really fun! Any takers?

open wifi = good wifi

Security guru Bruce Schneier says library wifi makes the world a better place in his interesting piece about leaving wifi networks open:

And I appreciate everyone else who keeps an open wireless network, including all the coffee shops, bars and libraries I have visited in the past, the Dayton International Airport where I started writing this and the Four Points Sheraton where I finished. You all make the world a better place.

I agree. Finding free wifi in an airport is a real treat.

library sponsored wireless in North Plains

I’m so pleased. The NPPL finally has a wireless network up and running. It is blazingly fast. Soon, the entire downtown strip of North Plains is going to be covered by the library’s wireless network. Here’s how it happened.

I would have plugged a wireless router into the network my first week at the library but it wasn’t that simple. Our interwebs come to us via a county sponsored pipe that doesn’t allow wireless networking. Hrm. My options for getting a wireless network up and running were to either bring in a second internet connection or wait for the library coop to offer it as a service to their member libraries. The second option was appealing in certain ways but was going to require a) more time and b) money for some equipment. Enough money to pay for a second internet connection for quite a while, in fact.

NPPL volunteer and North Plains resident Mark Lipscomb owns an IT consulting company called Complete Network Care and naturally is into techie things. One afternoon a few weeks back I was telling him about the situation regarding our lack of wifi and he said his company might be willing to sponsor a DSL connection for the library. I was pretty happy about this! We continued the conversation and I told him about a vision I had for a library sponsored wifi network throughout the main commercial strip of North Plains. His ears perked up and he mentioned that one of his clients, Wireless Applications Consulting, sets up, among other things, big wireless networks. I was very interested in this!

Drew Piriak of Wireless Applications Consuling, Mark and I met at the library the second week of December. We had an easy conversation and brokered a solution that satisfied all parties:

  • A two-tier wireless network would cover the library and downtown strip of North Plains. One would be fast and free, one would be faster and not free (profits going to Drew and/or Mark).
  • A small antenna would be put on the roof of the library. We’d contact a local business (with a tall building!) and ask if they’d let us put another antenna on their roof.
  • Mark and Drew would provide the equipment and new DSL line.
  • The NPPL would recognize the companies on its website and in the building with a sign.

I ran the details past the City Manager, Library Board, and Library Friends (who currently own the library building). Everyone was enthused and on board. The City Manager informed me that the North Plains City Council listed providing wifi downtown as a goal for 2008. Score for the library. The Rogue Pub has agreed to let us put a device on top of their building. Zero red tape, no hassles, easy as pie.

When users log on to the network named “North Plains Public Library” they will be directed to a page thanking them for using the network (that is, reminding them again that it is provided by the library), thanking the sponsors, and listing relevant library resources and news. I’ll likely use Feed2JS to bring in our website’s main feed (and maybe a NPPL new items feed if I can sort that out).

After plenty of doom and gloom about municipal wifi, the subject is enjoying a small resurgence. I think this is possibly the best library project with which I’ve been involved. It is providing a great service to the community, and is a great example of a library being a tech leader. The NPPL is remaining relevant. I’ve already been interviewed by the Oregonian about this and I think the Hillsboro Argus will run a piece too. This is good marketing for the library, and libraries in general.

There’s another exciting possibility. If the network has plenty of active users or the library finds additional funding for more Meraki devices, we’ll consider making inroads into the residential sections of North Plains, spreading the reach of the library even further. There are areas of North Plains that are broadband challenged so this could really solve a problem.

Thanks to all involved for making this happen!

“I have spent some time in the local public libraries, but the ones I find are usually small and depressing.”

An AskMetafilter question about finding free wifi access in South Florida.

People’s recommendations? Airports and hospitals.

Also it is perhaps interesting to note the asker’s question is about “Favorite libraries or public study spaces…” but states that he’s looking for a place to run his business.

"I have spent some time in the local public libraries, but the ones I find are usually small and depressing."

An AskMetafilter question about finding free wifi access in South Florida.

People’s recommendations? Airports and hospitals.

Also it is perhaps interesting to note the asker’s question is about “Favorite libraries or public study spaces…” but states that he’s looking for a place to run his business.

free wifi in portland!

Portland’s airport is one of my favorites. It is clean, attractive, and easy to get to the gate. And importantly, once at the gate, there’s free wireless.

Yesterday, Portland released a free, advertising supported wireless network throughout the downtown and nearby area east of the Willamette.

12 blocks and it’ll reach me!!


Tim Lauer imagines

teachers and students on class field trips taking along one of the laptops to blog the trip and upload photographs for the students back at the school.

Sounds good to me.

you do what?

I received a phone call from a neighboring library yesterday. The pleasant woman on the phone asked if we allow patrons to use flash drives on our computers. I replied in the positive, and asked why they prohibited this. Guess what she said? She said that there was no policy because she’d never heard of flash drives before. She didn’t think flash drives would be a good idea because they don’t even allow patrons to use floppy discs in their machines.

When I caught my breath I asked and found out that this policy is in place because they’ve had some troubles with viruses in the past. I guess one way to keep your public computers clean is to have them put to little use. To be fair, I just called and confirmed that they don’t have any computers with productivity software loaded. No Word, Powerpoint, Wordperfect, &c. Just Internet Explorer. So I suppose the issue isn’t just floppies or USB drives, but much larger.

I don’t mention this to pick on them or poke fun, but rather because I was utterly shocked about these restrictive and backwards policies. I can understand a library not having the funds for computers or software, but to have computers and be this extremely restrictive?

I’m wondering how this might change my perspective about implementing technology in libraries. How much of an anomaly is this library? My familiarity with things like IM and wireless in libraries and how normal it is for many librarians I know perhaps drastically skews my perception of things. Are there any articles, blogs or books being written about these very basic technologies in libraries? Maybe a number of years ago. It is sad to think that some libraries are frozen in time in this way.