or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Libraries Circulating Wi-Fi Hotspots: Now That’s Cool

   May 28th, 2015 Brian Herzog

internet access here signI've been quiet lately because I've been just flat-out busy at both work and home, but here's something that has me excited: patrons checking out wi-fi hotspots from their public library.

Last month's article about the NYPL's circulating wi-fi got me interested. I brought it up at a recent meeting, and a colleague (thanks Anna!) sent me some more background info:

The idea is simple enough: have a mobile hotspot for patrons to check out, that can create a local wi-fi signal using a 4G data plan. And surprisingly, not very expensive for non-profits: $15 per hotspot device, and then $10 per month for the 4G service. Cheap!

I'm going to be exploring this for my library over the coming year. This community is pretty good about mostly being able to afford their own internet access, but there are still plenty of patrons in the library every day to use our computers and wi-fi. A service like this would be critical in rural or poorly-covered areas, but will still be a benefit here.

Not to mention, staff could take it with them to the farmer's market to provide wi-fi on the common, and also so we can have a live ILS connection and check out cookbooks and gardening books on the spot.

If you have any experience with these, please leave a comment. And I'll post again once we make some progress.

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Wireless Network Handout

   May 26th, 2009 Brian Herzog

wi-fiHere's a new little handout to show patrons (and staff) the basics on how to connect to the library's wireless network. Feel free to modify* and use it if you like.

The handouts are designed to be a third of a page, with Windows instructions on one side and Mac instructions on the other:

Since the beginning of the year, I've been noticing more and more people asking for help connecting to the network. It wasn't that our network was problematic - the patrons just seemed like first-time laptop owners, and had no idea how to connect.

We have a more hardcore troubleshooting handout, instructing people to use ip config to release and renew their ip numbers, but that was definitely overkill for these patrons. They needed something plain and simple, that showed the basic steps to search for and connect to networks.

But of course, plain and simple is tricky, since there are so many brands and operating systems out there. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on making this better, or post a link to your own handout in the comments section.

And thank you to Jessamyn for writing the Mac portion - it would have only been half as useful without your help.

*I usually do little handouts like this in PowerPoint, because I already have templates setup - sorry for the amateur desktop publishing

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Reference Question of the Week – 6/8/08

   June 14th, 2008 Brian Herzog

The phone rings, and a male patron asks:

Patron: Hello, do you, I, have you got, um, wifey, at the library?
Me: Ah, I'm sorry, could you repeat that please?
Patron: Is wifey, at the library?
Me: Well, I don't know, but if you describe her, I can walk around and look for her.
Patron: What?
Me: We don't have a paging system, so I'll have to walk around to check and see if she's here.
Patron: She? No, I mean wifey. For my computer. Can I use wifey access at the library?
Me: [pause] Oh, yes, we do have wi-fi access here...

...and I went on to describe what we offer. The patron wasn't nearly as entertained by this misunderstanding as I was - in fact, I think he thought I was an idiot. Oh well; at least we eventually straightened it out.

When he came in later that day, I was able to help him connect his laptop to the library's wireless network, so that may have restored his faith in librarian competency.

Regardless, I'm going to take advantage of Jessamyn's incredibly timely post about better publicizing library services (not to mention linking to them so patrons can find local wireless access when the library is closed).

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