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Library Computer Time: Your Experience Will Vary

Updated on February 5, 2012

As we all must be aware by now, the new Kindle Fire has become a hot commodity in libraries as well as the consumer market at large. The number of public access computers a library must have in order to serve its community is just as important. There are different types of libraries, and their policies on computer use vary greatly. It also stands to reason that rules about computer use at the library have changed since they first appeared. Resources are vital for those both on the giving and receiving ends of this relationship, so reviewing the policies already in place as well as making observations about them is critical to the success of the business.

When I was growing up, the computers I got to use at the library had very strict time limits and parameters for their use. I could sign up to use one for an hour if I needed the Internet or other computer applications to do my homework, or I could sign up to use one for half an hour for leisurely pursuits provided they didn't involve restricted web sites. Today, the library is somewhat less strict as all of the computers are open to everyone to do whatever they want for an hour and a half total with room to log on again for another hour and a half later on in the day. I haven't tried logging on for a second time on an available computer right after my first ninety-minute session has expired. Because the system is entirely automated, there are no sign-up sheets and the printers are hooked up to a computer with a job list as well as a pay-to-operate machine. This is similar to the way computer labs at my college were set up, except for the fact that there were a lot more computers and the cost of printing was free, plus the fact that there was no time limit (which I miss along with my home Internet access which I was forced to get rid of to save money).

School libraries (other than college ones), on the other hand, do monitor content and block several web sites. As with parental blocks on a person's home Internet service, these also block more than they should in a number of ways. First of all, online resources with references to anything with a suggestive name are blocked despite not being of an explicit nature. This proves problematic to students trying to do an honest research paper. Secondly, as I learned in college, YouTube is used by several teachers to store educational videos and lectures they have made themselves for the benefit of their students. However, many shools ban YouTube right alongside social networking sites that the administrators cannot conceive as being beneficial to the learning process when in fact they can be most useful. Because of copyright issues and certain bills Congress and the FBI are currently wasting their time on, officials seem to have all but shunned the idea of fair use for the purposes of education and social commentary, which is just as much of a crime as any alleged act of online piracy people are getting arrested for these days. Owners of private libraries, of course, are free to make their own rules as they see fit, but as I have never been to one I am not qualified to pass judgment on them.

In conclusion, you must make the most of whatever resources you have at your disposal, especially technology. Rules may vary, but they should be very much open to debate and reform, especially in some instances. Libraries opposed the Patriot Act - let's stand up against ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA too.


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