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.