This week we looked at access and technology. The assigned textbook chapters give a quick overview of technologies and social media that is currently popular in libraries. Each week I am pleasantly surprised by the textbook because it seems very up to date and gives easy to understand descriptions and the history behind popular library technology. According to the reading and materials there are many things to consider when designing technology access and types of designs chosen for a given community. The ways libraries utilize popular technologies is based around the given user group and can change quickly based on the users’ needs.
Ease of access is an important factor for libraries when they are discussing what type of policy they will have with regards to public technology and internet access. Public libraries are more focused on open access with time limits to allow users with a fair chance at using library computers while academic libraries can be choosier with whom they allow internet and computer access. In the early 2000s when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas first opened the doors to Lied Library, all users were allowed on the computers and they had full internet access. With more and more becoming available online the library was full of outside users rather than students. Finally the library decided it needed to focus the technology access rights on students, staff, faculty and paying alumni members so that those completing research for the university were able to access the resources and most importantly the limited supply of computers. Public users have open guest wireless during business hours and can create patron accounts to check out limited materials. Giving students priority was an important step in the library’s policy formation because it showed our users we are here to help them succeed with their education and research goals.
Access for users with disabilities is another important topic to consider when choosing technology for the specific group of users in the community. Having a variety of adaptive technology software and hardware with staff members who are trained and confident in using the available technology is very important. We have a dedicated staff person who helps patrons with the provided adaptive technology and this staff person has trained our twelve or so computer help desk student assistants as well so access to these technologies or access to assistance using the technology is not limited to her work schedule.
Keeping the digital divide in mind when considering a specific user group is important for libraries to consider. According to the textbook only about 57% of adults in the US own a laptop, but about 88% own a cellphone. Many library users are gaining access to library materials and the internet through a mobile device rather than a pc or laptop. This needs to be taken into account when access policy and websites are designed for users. Many users visit the library to bridge this access divide as so many agencies now require electronic forms to complete things such as: job applications, government assistance, homework assignments, etc. Allowing a wide user base access to at the very least guest wireless internet access helps bridge the gap between the technology haves and the technology have nots.
Thinking about ease of access and thinking about who in the community should be accessing particular technology resources is a valuable tool for libraries to look at when considering policy. In the case of academic libraries limited access may be better for students who are paying library fees and tuition to have resources accessible to them, while tax payers need more open access at public libraries across the county.