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

Lost and Found Flash Drives

   January 24th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I feel like I've talked about this before, but it's something that continues to puzzle me. Every week or so we find flash drives left behind in the public work stations after patrons leave - here's what we've got in our Lost & Found bin now:

Found flash drives

Most of the flash drives we find get returned because our policy is to check the flash drive to look for a resume or something that has contact information in it.

But of the others, no one ever comes looking. And it seems that every time someone comes to the desk to ask if we found their flash drive, none of the ones we have belong to them. I find this odd.

Two other things I find interesting: one is the different kinds of drives people use (and the ones that are the same), as well as the different ways staff has of marking the drives as to when and where they were found (all our public workstations are named after authors).

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Selling Flash Drives at the Reference Desk

   May 1st, 2007 Brian Herzog

Flash Drive photoWe've just taken a long-awaited step at my library - we're selling flash drives at the Reference desk.

When I say "long-awaited," I'm probably just referring to myself. We've sold 3.5" floppies and CDs at the desk for a few years, but they each have their problems. 3.5" disks seem to be unstable (easily damaged by temperature, abuse, or ejecting before the light turns off) - to the point where I had to develop a handout for recovering lost data. And CDs have the problem of read/write access, being difficult to use (another handout), and having different save formats not being readable by all computers.

Flash drives don't suffer from any of those problems. The only thing that had been keeping us from offering them at the reference desk was price. Spending $1 on a disk is one thing, but I couldn't see a patron being willing to spend $50 on an impulse buy at the library. I had been looking for cheaper flash drives on various websites, but even with rebates, the cheapest I could find was about $10 - still too expensive.

So I was happy when I finally found some for under $5. I don't really like the big box stores, as I feel their business practices are inherently flawed, but I caved in this case. A nearby Target store has for sale Memorex 32MB flash drives for $4.99 (and this is even in tax-free New Hampshire).

I bought 15 of them, as that seemed like a good number - not a huge investment, but enough to keep us going for awhile. I am hoping to wean patrons from the 3.5" disks and get them using flash drives as soon as possible. It'll mean more secure data storage for them, and less headaches for the desk staff in terms of us not having to tell people "sorry, but the file you've been working on for two weeks is completely gone."

So far, though, there's been no takers. People still want to spend just $1 and take their chances, rather than spending the $5 for 28 times more storage space. But I've decided to not replenish our 3.5" supply when they're gone - we'll only sell flash drives. I wonder how that'll go over.

disk, disks, flash drive, flash drives, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, selling disks

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