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

An Anecdotal Experiment With Privacy

   March 15th, 2011 Brian Herzog

For the last few years at my library, our public computers all looked the same - Windows XP with a custom wallpaper displaying instructions on how to print. Our setup looked like this:

Wallpaper with printing instructions

A month or so ago, we upgraded to Windows 7, and thought we'd also change the wallpaper.

Our goal in this was to improve patron privacy. The timer software we use is Time Limit Manager (TLM), by Fortress Grand (the little "Time Remaining" clock at the top of the screen above). I like this software because it is very customer service oriented, and patrons don't need to log in with a barcode to start their session - they can just sit down, click "I Agree" to our policies, and go. The timer is basically a courtesy reminder, and for the most part we can get away with using the honor system (TLM does offer additional features for when push comes to shove).

But the main problem we were seeing wasn't that people wouldn't leave the computer - it was that patrons weren't ending their session when they left the computer. This set up the scenario where a second patron could come along and just continuing using the session of the previous patron.

This never caused a real problem in my library, but the potential was there, so we thought the upgrade would be a good time to address it.

With the Windows 7 rollout, we designed new wallpaper, hoping to prompt people end their session when they were finished with the computer. The new wallpaper looks like this:

Wallpaper with privacy reminder

The result? Absolutely no change whatsoever.

I didn't do a scientific survey, but just from the number of times staff has to end the session at an abandoned computer, the privacy reminder didn't seem to affect anyone at all.

I can't believe people aren't seeing this message, so it's tough not to conclude that, at least in my library, most patrons don't care much about their privacy.

So, I wanted to ask the question here - what do other libraries do to get patrons to end their session?

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   March 28th, 2007 Brian Herzog

error screen captureThis picture is the error my computer has been displaying for the past week. It happened about a week ago, when my Verizon phone service also went out. I personally think that whatever knocked out the phone came in through the DSL line and also affected the computer, but Verizon's DSL helpline refused to even entertain such a notion. Ah, well.

The good news is that my phone service is back on. I've been searching the internet at work for information on this error, but everything I find has to do with Win2000. I have WinXP, so I'm still stuck without a computer at home. Which make blogging more difficult, but it certainly does force me outside to enjoy the warming Spring temperatures.

Anyway, if anyone has magical solution for fixing this error, please let me know. Thanks.

blue screen of death, computer, computer screen, damn microsoft, dsl, error, error c000021a, fatal system error, logon error, monitor, phone service, verizon, windows xp, winxp, xp

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