The magic of Internet access at Public Libraries.

So here I am once again facing a fair amount of downtime at work, but with just enough open tickets that I can’t venture too far from the campus lest I get called back. Fortunately there’s a rather nice public library just across the street that provides free Internet access without any content filters. So not only can I post to my blog, but I can also see it and leave a comment or two. My sister often makes use of her public library to check in on her blog so it occurred to me I could do the same.

Of course there’s always the danger that someone has installed a key logger on the system so I’m making use of my handy U3 enabled Sandisk Cruzer flash drive which not only has Firefox as a self-contained installation holding all my bookmarks and temporary files, but comes with the U3 edition of Avast Antivirus specifically designed to offer on the go protection. The library has done a pretty good job of locking down the system, though, as the start menu has been removed completely and icons placed on the desktop in order to allow the launching of applications. They’ve also disabled the right-click context menus in Windows XP for some reason which makes using the spell checker in Firefox impossible, but at least I can still see that I’ve typed a word incorrectly.

Naturally just as soon as I got settled here and started in on this fluff entry about how I’m braving the world of Public Library Internet access my cellphone rings and they have a ticket they need me to check up on. So it looks like my time here will be rather short as I need to finish up and head back over to the campus to see if the build team has managed to get their collective heads out of their collective asses and figured out how to do their job properly.

But at least I know I have a resource available to make use of from time to time.

4 thoughts on “The magic of Internet access at Public Libraries.

  1. I work at a library as an IT staffer for the past 8 months.  We only have 3 public terminals for accessing the internet (most my work is done with an archiving team that is digitally copying a lot of the old photo’s, manuscripts, audio recordings, and 16mm video for the State). 

    I’m always a little concerned about how much access to give users on the Windows XP machines we have.  Currently they are running a program called NETTIME which was in place when I started.  It sounds similar to your experience the only difference is that it has an HTML page that tells you the “rules” governing the use of the public PC’s and then a choice to accept the rules and the 30 minute timer or not. 

    The problem is if I leave the PC’s too open at the end of each day they are jammed with spyware, worms, trojans and the occasional virus.  If I lock them down too much their usefulness is greatly diminished for the end user.  So I’ve been stuck going to weekly meetings for the past few months to discuss with the librarians this exact topic. 

    Any thoughts of what the basic expectations of a user should be when they log into a public PC?  Should they expect to have full access to install anything they need?  Is there certain software they must have?  I’m in the process of setting up one of the machines right now.  I’ll be setting it up just the way I think it should be (from all the meetings) and then ghosting the drive for the other machines. 

    I’ve also been looking into software that will rebuild the machines each time they restart from the ghosted image.  Right now I’m leaning toward having all the software I can think of that an end user would need on the machine and then locking them down so people can’t add any software to it.  Since we have had an issue with a software keylogger on a machine, as well as someone installing tunneling software to try and access the computer remotely.

  2. A public user of library terminal shouldn’t be able to install anything. Heck, in my library even I can’t install anything and I’m the LIBRARIAN!

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