This week we looked at the variety of networking and communication that libraries use to perform services. The three types of services libraries rely on are software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service. The ways each of these talk to network systems and hardware within the library depends on the service required and how the department has structured the technology. At my institution we have a combination of cloud computing and local network computing. I feel like we are a bit behind in the cloud game because many of our services are only available in person or on staff desktop computers. This class is very timely for me as I am on two committees working towards more WAN style computing for staff. The first group is working on choosing an updated ILS and the other group is working on the way we store documents, communicate and collaborate across the library. From the readings and videos I watched it seems like there is no right answer for libraries technology needs. Allowing access for staff and patrons is the ultimate goal for most institutions and there is a variety of ways to meet those needs.
As far as my particular institution is concerned we want access remotely to things like the staff wiki, documents, the ILS and collaboration and workflow tools. Currently all of these things must be done in-house on a desktop computer. This is very frustrating because it means you have to either prep materials (eg. print tons of paper documents) or go without in a meeting or while working from home or while traveling at conferences. We recently switched from a LAN email server to Gmail. This is a huge improvement for staff because we are now able to fully access our email accounts from another computer, our company issued tablet, or a home computer. I always found being tethered to a local server for email very frustrating because I work from my office computer about 20% of the day. The rest of my time is spent on a service desk with a desktop computer (circulation or reference) or in meetings on my iPad or laptop. The next goal for us is to be able to access our ILS from anywhere. This would be incredible because to assist patrons currently if I am at home or traveling for work I have to call or email the information to staff who are physically in the library to update an account, check fine information or to give remote access to our online databases. This sometimes means I do not respond to patron requests as quickly as I would like because of my lack of access to the ILS when away from my desktop computer. A cloud based ILS or as the reading by Breeding suggests “library services platform” would be beneficial for services since we can outsource the storage and updates of the software to the vendor. We could provide real-time service throughout the 300,000 square foot building meaning student staff could be in the stacks checking books out to patrons or updating their library cards instead of asking the patrons to come all the way down to the first floor where the service desks are located. Paging lists could be scanned and updated as the books are pulled off the shelves. Inventory of the stacks would be done in real-time and help find missing items or holes in the collection. The possibilities are really endless and would ease staff frustrations as well as timeliness of services offered to our patrons.
The videos this week discussed the implications of cloud computing on collections and the digitization of works to be accessed 24/7. Our special collections department has teamed with the digital collections department to digitize thousands of photographs and other collections suitable for online access. Previously these collections could only be accessed by physically visiting our special collections department Monday through Friday 9am-5pm. This is very frustrating for staff who work weekends because we often have tourists visiting Las Vegas wanting to see more photographs and historical documents regarding casinos, restaurants, tourism and even prostitution. Being able to access these materials 24/7 is important as visitors stopped by for research purposes and it is nice to be able to access the items for them without special collection staff intervention. This type of technology intervention and storage allows us to collaborate with the community and our history. Creating repositories that can be digitized ensures the institutional knowledge is saved in a way future generations can easily find and access.
The use of mobile technology is increasing and many times is the way our patrons access the library webpage on the run. I browsed the website “Boopsie” and discovered none of my local academic or public libraries are utilizing the service. The university I work at has a mobile compatible website, but we don’t have a mobile only website. Some functionality is decreased with this because the screen size and the amount of graphics our web developers use on the website. My local public library actually has a great mobile website and allows me to easily access my account information, request books and download Kindle compatible books to my iPhone. I love having access to my books anywhere because the only time I usually have to sit down and read for pleasure is when I am waiting at the doctor’s office or in line for something. I also have a rule about loaning library books; I only borrow physical books that I can waive the fines for (haha) since I am terrible about remembering to bring them back on time!
The implications for cloud based computing and easing access through WAN networks is a great topic to explore for libraries. Each library has many things to consider when looking at this type of technology. One huge implication that comes to mind for my institution is FERPA, I do not feel comfortable storing any patron or student information in any cloud based storage. Google has tried to work with governmental agencies who have implemented Google apps and email, but many have rejected even the government apps Google has put in place for fear of privacy and storage issues. The readings discussed possible oversight in this arena and the need for more research and development in the areas of privacy and safety of data storage within the cloud.