For my final post on Internet Station Management (ISM), I would like to quickly go over the holy grail of keeping public access computers running- Deep Freeze. Deep Freeze has the least amount of restrictions for patrons, while preventing any permanent computer changes. It is a pricey option, with a $409 base price for 10 PC’s, but is worth the initial cost.
Deep Freeze has two different states that it can be in, Thawed or Frozen. If a patron installs 1 – 100 applications while the computer is “frozen” a simple restart will get rid of those changes. Now, when a computer needs to be updated you can then “thaw” the system and changes made will stay. So what happens when you use this software to its full potential?
Here is the setup at my library:
- 15 minutes to open: PC’s Auto-Boot
- Computers start in frozen state
- Computers restart during day (after 30 minutes of idle time)
- After computers restarts all changes made by patrons goes away
- Deep Freeze shuts down computers 1 minute to close.
- On Sunday, Deep Freeze starts computers in maintenance mode.
- Windows Updates automatically installed and clocks are synchronized.
- Computers shutdown- Monday is back to step (1).
So, how much time is saved? Co-workers don’t have to turn computers off or on. I don’t have to apply updates. I don’t have to fix problems when a patron messes up a computer (just restart). All-in-all Deep Freeze is my best friend. Or wait, did it just put me out of a job?
Since my first post on Internet Station Management (ISM) I received a mailing from Fortres Grand Corporation on their newest Time Limit Manager. The system promises:
- Fair and appropriate use of public access computers
- Easy allocation of computer time
- A “reservation ticket system” to limit time
- End sessions at library closing
- No hardware or personnel needed
This, I was promised, could be mine for the low price of $25. Digging further I found that the $25 price tag was for a single license. Not so good if you have more than one computer in your library. Prices for 25 computers, the next option up, are $195.
Time Limit Manager seems like it would be a good option if you are looking to get patrons in and out quick. Once a ticket is handed out the patron only has the allotted time, even if nobody else is waiting. This is probably the greatest disadvantage. I was, also, concerned with the following quote:
Librarian’s can view screen shots, end sessions, and send messages reminding particular patrons of appropriate use.
While I realize you can see the same thing by walking past a computer, I felt like gaining screen shots could be an infringement of the user’s privacy. Then again, the feature doesn’t have to be used.
The main concern I have is figuring out who is supposed to receive passes. If your library requires that an “Internet Use Policy” be signed there is no way to keep track of this information with the system. Every time someone comes in they are given a different code to use. In short this software is not making it easier on the librarian or the patron.
With neat discussions already going on about chat reference, wiki’s, podcating, RFID and more deciding what to write about was a challenge for this LIS 6080 assignment. So, I decided to turn to a project that I’ve been working on for the last few weeks at West Branch Public Library. The challenge is one that a number of smaller libraries face and it is Internet Station Management (ISM).
Having a limited number of computer resources and keeping track of allotted patron time.
Because we are a smaller library (aka: lack technology funding) open source software was the only way to go. While other companies such as Pharos Systems and EnvisionWare offer high end solutions it was a bit excessive (and expensive) for our library. Grand Rapids Public Library, also, offers a very nice Internet Station Manager but requires a little more setup since it needs a server to run on. Then there was Cybera an open source solution that could run in a windows environment on both client and server end.
Cybera was a little rough around the edges at first since it is being developed for Cyber Cafes, but was easily implement into our library in just 2 weeks! I won’t go too in depth but to process consisted of:
- Manipulating our Internet user database to create usernames.
- Importing them into the Cybera database (uses Access).
- Installing the Cyber client on each Internet terminal.
Once Cybera was running on all the system we tossed out our “Internet Sign-In Sheet” which we used to keep track of a patrons time on a computer. For first use with the patrons received their user name and password. Then we were able to keep track of user time from the circulation monitor. Notifying someone that they needed to relinquish their computer was an easy as pausing the session which gives a two minute warning.
- Improved User Privacy (no more sign-in sheet)
- Easier to distinguish whose time was up thus improving “wait time”
- Denied access to patrons jumping on without signing in
ISM is a great way to handle resource constraints and relive staff from constantly monitoring whose time is up. I highly recommend Cybera for the smaller libraries out there.
So Many Computers, So Little Time by Andrew Mutch and Karen Ventura is a great article on ISM, computer security and print management solutions.
Cybera: Staff Manual (.pdf) used at WBPL (added 2-16-2007)