14 · SPEC Kit 302
of public computing equipment. Since FY 2005, just
under half of the respondents have seen a mixed
impact on their hardware, software, and staffing
budgets. At these libraries some budget categories
have increased, others have decreased, but most
have stayed the same. Seventeen libraries report
their budgets have remained the same across the
board. A lucky 14 have had increases across the
board. At several institutions, the budget does not
include a line for computer replacement, instead
that expense must be taken from the general oper-
ating budget. The situation is further complicated
by the fact that some institutions must compete for
student technology fee dollars in order to replace
public computing equipment. On the bright side,
two respondents commented that they have been
able to purchase more hardware for the same or
less money as prices drop.
User Technical Support
At the other end of the public computing support
spectrum is the direct support of the patrons who
use the public computing equipment. The people
who provide this support come from several dif-
ferent areas. When asked which staff are respon-
sible for answering technical questions about li-
brary public computers, 41 (66%) responded that
professional staff in the library IT department are
responsible. At 26 of these libraries, librarians, and
in most cases support and/or student staff, also
answer users’ questions. At 14 of the remaining 15
libraries support and/or student staff share that
responsibility with the professional IT staff. At 15
other libraries user support falls on librarians with
help from support and student staff. At only four
libraries are support staff primarily responsible for
user technical support.
A comparison of the responses to the questions
on who provides equipment support and user sup-
port shows that in about a third of the cases it is the
same staff. In 45% of the cases additional staff, typi-
cally in public services, help answer users’ ques-
tions. In 24% of the cases user support falls to the
higher-level staff in the group.
The survey asked which non-IT departments
provide staff to answer users’ technical questions.
The departments most commonly mentioned in-
clude public services, reference, and circulation.
Several respondents mentioned that the non-IT
staff provide support primarily for applications-
based questions and lower-level technical ques-
tions. When users need to alert library staff about
public computing problems, in-person reporting is
the most common approach. The majority of users
report problems to the reference desk, significantly
fewer report problems to the circulation desk. Only
four libraries have a tech help desk. Several respon-
dents clarified that users can report problems to
any public service desk. Ten libraries take problem
reports by e-mail or instant messaging and one has
a Web-based help application. Since the reference
and circulation desks receive most of the problem
reports, it stands to reason that the staff at these two
locations would be the ones who most frequently
provide technical support to users.
To help manage and address public computer
problems, about three-fourths of the responding li-
braries use helpdesk ticket tracking software. There
is no consensus on which software is best. Sixteen
use a locally developed system, five use Request
Tracker, four use Remedy, and the rest use a vari-
ety of other software including NetSupport, JIRA,
TrackIT, and Numara Footprints.
For most libraries, addressing public comput-
ing problems is an on-going challenge that keeps
library IT staff busy every day. When asked how
frequently library IT staff has to address a public
computing problem, seven (11%) reported that
they respond more then five times a day, 22 (36%)
address problems between two and five times a
day, and 10 (16%) just once a day. The remaining
21 libraries address problems less often then once
a day.
Public Computer Use Policy
To ensure appropriate use of the public computer
equipment, 61 respondents have a policy in place
that is aimed at users. When asked whether the
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