“Patron uses own Wireless network. IT to Patron: Use our Network or Go Home.”


That of course is not a real news headline.

Visiting a library recently, I asked what I needed to do to get on the wireless network. The Librarian said their IT department didn’t support wireless because it was a network security risk. That and it cost too much. My thought: oh my…oh my who is doing their IT? Suppose patrons start showing up with Autonet? Will this IT department jam it? While it may sound weird, how many NO CELL PHONE policies have you seen? Does that respect how patrons use library spaces? Creating barriers definitely goes against the Ranganathan principle: The library is a growing organism and Gorman’s additional laws, #3: Use technology intelligently to enhance service.

“Imagine going on a long road trip with your family. Sitting in the passenger’s seat with your laptop open, you are able to provide the driver with directions to the nearest restaurant you just made online reservations with opentable.com and check the weather forecast for your destination. At the same time, your teenage daughter is on her favorite social networking website updating her profile and chatting with friends. Your preteen son is watching the latest videos on YouTube and searching for the latest games on-line…”

Or you drive to your local library because you love being there -but don’t like the constricted network controls. I don’t know for sure but I doubt Starbucks or Barnes & Noble restricts their wireless network -and they seem to want to do everything then can to keep people in their stores, their pseudo public spaces. Libraries need to remember to find ways to clear access for patrons, not be appearing to engineer obstructions. Controls should encourage the right kind of action. Not frustrate our users. In a time of shrinking public spaces, libraries will become oases hopefully free from unnecessary obstructions.

Update: here’s an Architecture student’s take on these CRTL thoughts. Pretty neat. (PDF not available -trying to get it.)

TTW Contributor: Lee LeBlanc

5 thoughts on ““Patron uses own Wireless network. IT to Patron: Use our Network or Go Home.””

  1. If you will ever come to Latvia you can always go to any public (not academic or any other special) library and connect to free wireless without any authentication.

    Just come and use. WiFi will be (in the end of March, 2008) accessible in all 874 public libraries here in Latvia. That means it will be possible to get at least one free hotspot in every smaller and larger town here.

    Libraries should be open, and needs to offer wide variety of services.

  2. The county public library system I work for in New Jersey prohits patrons from using the social websites because it reduces our broadband capabilites. What’s really funny is that (I’ve heard) our State Library has a presence in the social website world. Go figure.

  3. actually, you cannot use starbuck’s network unless you pay for it…by the minute if i am not mistaken;-) i have always thought that a bit absurd.

  4. Starbucks offers two plans – by the minute or a monthly fee with unlimited connections.

    Also, our county library offers both wired and wireless access to the Internet. They do not filter social networks, however, the wireless is capped to a certain speed, but still faster than dial-up, ISDN, and certain DSL connections…

  5. –Also, -if you have t-mobile you can get on for “free” at any hotspot. The catch is that you have t-mobile and pay 10 bucks a month for access to any of their hotspots. They provide internet access to Starbucks, B&N, Crisper’s and most likely others.

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