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

Still Selling Flash Drives

   May 13th, 2008

Flash drive imageAlmost exactly a year ago, we started selling flash drives at our reference desk. We did this because 3.5" floppy disks are becoming more and more unreliable and problematic, and CDs seem to be a mystery to most patrons.

We stopped selling floppy disks and CDs, and started selling 32mb drives for $5 each. When our source for them dried up, we had to scramble for something else. We thought a $5 flash drive, regardless of the size, was a pretty good deal – still cheap enough not to be prohibitive, and 32mb is still useful enough for people working on resumes and things like that.

But now we found an even better deal – 1gb drives for $8.

Our IT person sourced them through the local office of Corporate Express, and I think she was able to combine our non-profit status with some closeout deal on these to get that price. I think the $8 price tag is a little steep, especially for someone just wanting to save a couple documents, so I put more effort into selling the technology itself than selling drives.

As with everything, some patrons are slow to adapt, but some do recognize that these same drives sell for about $20 in stores, so they're happy. What I'm happy about is that we've been getting fewer requests for the $1 floppy disk, but even better is that we get fewer "I had all my resumes on this disk and now it won't open" type questions.

Don't PanicAnd since I like themed posts, I shall continue with the "drive" theme and say that I'm currently in Ohio, visiting my family for Mother's Day and my brother's birthday. I drove here, which means 20 hours (round trip) of audio books. Currently, I'm working my way through the Hitchhiker trilogy. I know this comparison has been made before, I think it's amazing how closely Wikipedia resembles the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (double emphasis here because it's the title of a book within a book by the same title): it has entries on almost everything, the entries are supplied by people out living in the world and writing what they know, it's accessible from almost anywhere, and when the entries are inaccurate, they can be wildly inaccurate.

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5 Responses to “Still Selling Flash Drives”

  1. Stephanie Willen Brown Says:

    Two things:
    – My husband, an IT director for a school system, got *2 gig* flash drives for $11.
    – I *love* helping students at the reference desk who have flash drives. No worries about printing (“do you have any $$ on your copy card?” … “do you want me to email this to you?”) just a simple “let’s put this on your flash drive.”

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Stephanie: it is nice how easy they are to use (to the point where some patrons don’t believe me). The other handy thing is that lots of database vendors (and websites) are adding an “email this” link to their interface, to further save people from printing everything.

  3. Jamie Says:

    Hi Brian!
    It’s Jamie from good ol’ library school! I found your blog when I was exploring the blog world for a project at work called 23 things. Your blogs are great! I enjoy reading the reference questions of the week. Hope your drive to and from Ohio wasn’t too bad.

  4. Melissa Says:


    I’m a new reader of your blog. It’s awesome. We just started selling flash drives at my library. Do your flash drives have U3 software? Does it cause any problems to your network? Or did you get the Kingston Travelers?


  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Melissa: The ones we sell are the Kingston DataTravelers, and we’re pretty happy with them. One we bought a long time ago as the desk’s flash drive (the one staff uses when necessary) is a SanDisk with the U3 software on it. I don’t think it has caused any problems on our network, but the U3 stuff is difficult to use – it seems to take forever (read: minutes) for the computer to recognize the drive, and sometimes has to reinstall itself a few times before it is accessible. It also installs itself as two drive letters – one for the U3 software and another for the actual data on the drive. The waiting is a pain, but the two drives is extremely confusing for patrons. I will make sure to steer clear of that in the future, just for ease of use.