I thought it would be a good time to update everyone on what's going on with two of our projects: PC and Printer Management and Public Wifi.
After seeing demonstrations from three different vendors, we've finally agreed on a specific vendor. This vendor's software has several noteworthy features that set it apart from their competitors and seem well suited for a library environment. I am not going to name names at this time since there are still many details that have to be worked out.
Physical space is our biggest obstacle at this point. While some libraries, like Oscoda, have plenty of space for extra equipment, others are considerably smaller in size. The problems range from lack of floor space to wall space to custom shelving that can't be moved or removed (since we don't want to take away book space). The key to making this work will be a combination of smaller and slimmer equipment and more efficient use of available space.
Our plan is to meet with the librarians early next month, present what we've found and our opinions, and ask them to start evaluating what their needs are for their library. After we have a clear picture of what is needed, we'll ask for a quote from the vendor.
Unfortunately, this means that the new PC Management system will not be ready before the tourist season starts. We can't just buy the software, install it and be done. There are a lot of options and small details that will make the difference between a group of happy patrons and staff, and a group of irate patrons and staff. The whole purpose of implementing this system is to reduce staff workload; otherwise, we're not going for it.
Public wifi is unofficially on-track. To ensure that our current services are not interrupted, it will not be implemented until July; when Merit installs our T1 lines. That way, there'll be plenty of bandwidth for our critical services and enough to spare for public wifi.
There are still policies to be written and agreed upon. However, there are a few things that I can bring up now. Some of our patrons have asked for a place to merely plug their laptop into a wall outlet to recharge their battery. We're not going to allow this for two reasons:
1. We don't really have the space for electrical outlets, let alone a spot for wifi users to sit.
2. Since there will not be a time limit on using wifi, enforcement will be accomplished by allowing users with laptops to be limited by their battery's runtime.
Remember that we are providing wifi as a free (but accountable) public service. We are not responsible for maintaining your equipment, providing technical support or space to work. This will vary by location, but we are not making any guarantees. You will have unfiltered access to the Internet, but it'll up to you to make use of it.
On a personal note, I ordered a Buffalo WHR-G54S wireless router for my home (to replace an aging and problematic circa 2002 Linksys unit) and will have it running OpenWRT. This will very likely be the make/model router that will serve as our wifi gateway at each branch. The unit is similar in specifications to the Linksys WRT-54GL, but is roughly thirty dollars cheaper.
If you want to know more about our upcoming wifi service, please refer to our WifiDog entry in our Wiki.