Posts Tagged ‘computers’

Bandwidth vs. Regulars

Well, some of our regulars have learned the magic word that really runs the show: bandwidth!

When our bandwidth is maxed out, everyone can tell. Games, tunes, MySpace, Facebook, you name it, they all come to a virtual standstill. Our reference desk has “traffic grapher” so we can tell if it’s incoming or outgoing traffic that is maxing us out. But since our branch is small, we usually walk around to let people know the slow down is due to a bandwidth issue. While we’re strolling through the public PC’s, we also scan for possible culprits. Generally, it’s hard to tell, so we gently mention that “someone” is uploading (or downloading) a large file and it’s affecting everyone’s performance. We hope for a little peer pressure–sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The regular “boys” are the ones who get the most frustrated since their gaming is affected immediately: nothing worse than a medieval army getting caught up in a bandwidth vacuum. One day, our “Larry” (see previous post), decided to take matters into his own hands and came up to the desk and asked that we check the bandwidth. He said the librarians needed to walk the floor and get the other gamers off the pipe. When the librarian asked him why?, he informed her that he was at a critical point in his game and that took priority over the other games.

Interesting point of view.

It’s amazing how the expectations for service expand with the capability. It’s never enough. Certainly, we’ll never have enough bandwidth to satisfy the needs of all of our clients. As more and more apps move to the web, the demands will become greater, and not just for gamers. It’s a web world.

Amazingly enough, three of the seven guys who come in every day are now on laptops. I have no idea how they got them and I don’t ask. For them, it’s a huge win. They see it as a way to the web with less restraints and librarian monitoring. The only boondoggle? Bandwidth. I wonder if they’ll figure out that the laptops get dropped from the pipe first when traffic maxes? I think I’ll keep that piece of info to myself.

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Computer Dance

Here’s what we’ve got: 12 “adult” computers, 4 “juvenile” computers, and 4 “quiet room” computers. I have put these adjectives in quotes because, from the patrons point of view, a computer is a computer is a computer.

And our folks want access to a computer when they walk in the door. Why do they come to our little library? We are their link to email, gaming, social networking, and the world. Either they don’t have a computer at home (oh, yes, there are lots of folks here who don’t have a computer) or Comcast (our local cable company) is doing the bandwidth dropping game, or the home computers have been attacked by a virus and are non-functional.

The teens and pre-teens come after school and use our computers to network virtually and in reality at the same time. They actually txt on MySpace and Facebook with people who are in the building. Go figure.

The good news is that we have computer reservation software whose responsibility it is to equitably divide up the computer time among our patrons. From Noon until 8 pm, our computers are occupied and the reservation system is busy. And while some people get confused and much of our time is spent helping people sign on to the reservation computer, the regulars have learned to beat the system. If they are bumped off, they get a new guest pass and grab the next computer. Or, they’ll watch the time and juggle their sign on’s so that they start a new session when the computers are not totally maxed. The system gives an hour from start. Some even barter time with others who finish early or trade passes to be with friends. It’s quite a scene.

So, that’s the dance we librarians watch: the teens and regulars gliding from one computer to another, one session to the next.

But I do feel sorry for the general public who just want to look up a book … or do some research on their most recent doctor’s visit … or look for a job … or do homework. How do we serve them as well?

We don’t. We can’t.

Extra Service

There’s really no way around it. In a small branch, when someone comes in who really needs help, it’s gotta happen. Busy or not, we need to extend that extra service.

Today, a wheelchair-bound older patron came in and needed to order something online. From searching for the item, to placing the order, to creating an email address, it took almost 60 minutes. In between, we were helping people sign on to computers, adding book requests, refilling the copy machine, finding the restroom key, unblocking computers for MySpace, and printing guest passes. The hour went by quickly.

We are also running a promotion here called “Get Carded @ the Library” to encourage customers to sign up for a library card and to win a prize. At the end of September, we’ll be drawing names for an MP3 player (thanks to the generous donation of our Friends of the Library). Each day we draw for mini prizes: “Thanks a Mint” mints, stuffed bears, polka dot puppies, and book marks. So far so good!

It’s settle down now. Knock on wood, as they say. We expect a rush at 4 or 4:30 as people make a last minute run to the library for videos over the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, we will be facing a mountain of materials inside our book drop and the new fines and fees schedule.