Managing Public Computing · 15
library developed the policy or whether they use
one created by their institution, 29 (48%) reported
that they follow the institution-wide computer use
policy, 23 (38%) developed their own document in
accordance with the institution-wide policy, and
nine (15%) developed their own public computer
use document. At most institutions, the policy was
developed by the university or central IT depart-
ment. Within the library, developing the policy is
most frequently the responsibility of the library ad-
ministration, the public services department, or the
library IT department. When asked how frequently
the policy is reviewed for updates and revisions,
all but a handful said that it is reviewed on an “as
needed” basis. Only seven review it annually and
two review it each semester.
Security, as it relates to protecting the public com-
puting infrastructure and also the users of the re-
sources, has become a critical concern for all who
support computing. When asked whether users are
required to login to public computers to access ap-
plications and the network, 28 of the respondents
(46%) said that users only have to login to some of
the public computers, 15 (25%) require logins for
all of their computers, and 18 (30%) do not require
a login at all. Four years ago, 67 ARL member li-
braries answered a similar question in SPEC Kit
277: Library Public Access Workstation Authentication
(2003). Their responses then were: 15 required some
logins (22%) 7 required all logins (11%) 45 required
no logins (67%). Thirty-nine institutions replied to
both surveys. Eighteen still have the same login
policy (6 yes, some 4 yes, all 8 no). Twenty now
require more logins. Ten of these changed from no
to yes, some six from no to yes, all and four from
yes, some to yes, all. Only one has changed from
yes, all to yes, some.
For those libraries that now require a login to
use a computer, 20 (46%) will provide a guest login
to people who are not affiliated with the institu-
tion. Sixteen (36%) just direct these patrons to the
few machines that do not require a login. Some in-
stitutions will do both, while others are completely
closed to unaffiliated people.
When asked if public computer users are al-
lowed to install any software on a machine, 46
(74%) said that they are not. Sixteen (26%) do allow
users to install software that complies with the li-
brary or institution’s computer use policy. The soft-
ware cannot require either an administrative login
or a reboot. In most cases, the computers are set up
to wipe away the installation when rebooted.
Although libraries have computer use policies
in place and most require users to login and not
install software, public computer support staff still
have many security concerns. Even with imaging
software, viruses, spyware, and malware remain
a major concern. People hacking into the network,
using the public computers to hack into other sys-
tems, and attempting to access or steal confiden-
tial or personal information are also of concern.
Low-tech malicious acts like theft and vandalism
of equipment are also still a problem.
Public Computing Assessment
Given the amount of time, effort, and resources
committed to developing and maintaining a high
quality computing environment, many libraries
turn to assessment measures to determine how
successful they are at meeting patrons’ needs.
When asked if the library assessed user satisfaction
with public computing, more than half (35 or 59%)
said that they did. Six have not but are planning
for a user assessment. Of the 35 that have done an
assessment, 28 (80%) assessed hardware, 27 (77%)
assessed software, and 18 (51%) assessed the tech-
nical support provided. Several respondents indi-
cated that they have used LibQUAL+® to gather
assessment information.
Twenty-five respondents do not track the use of
public computers, seven don’t now but are plan-
ning for usage tracking. Of the 27 who do track
the use of public computers, 17 (63%) track user
logins, nine (33%) use software and scripts to track
desktop activity, and five (19%) take physical head
counts of users.
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