Time and Print Management
We currently use time and print management solutions at three of our eight branch libraries, with plans to deploy to two more branches.
Robert J. Parks Library in Oscoda
Mary Johnston Memorial Library in Standish
AuGres Community Library
Future deployments will take place at Whittemore Library and Plainfield Township Library in Hale.
The software solution is provided by a company called Envisionware. Time management is handled by a product called PCReservation, and our print management is via LPT:One.
The time management system, PCReservation, hooks into our patron database. This is same database hosted by the Valley Library Consortium that is used to check items in and out at all our branch libraries.
Print management is a standalone installation, hosted on a single PC at each branch, and does not use the patron database at all.
It's also important to note that patron records on computer usage are anonymized every day. Meaning that at the end of each business day, the identifying information is stripped from the usage records, making it impossible after one business day to identify which patron used which computer.
Also, the time management system does not keep records on what sites are visited or other private information.
It's sole function is to ensure that every patron gets a fair share of computer time on a public access computer.
Print management is configured in a similar fashion. It clears out print jobs (released or not) after three hours, and is not configured to retain records on who printed what. Again, LPT:One does not require nor use a patron database to create print jobs.
Okay, so, why do we have it?
At our busiest libraries, we have two issues with public computing. First is keeping track of time a Patron spends on a PC. On a busy day, it can be very difficult to track time spent online. Maintaining a queue requires staff time and resources better spent assisting patrons in other areas. PCReservation automates the process where a patron comes in, signs up for a computer, uses it, and leaves with minimal staff intervention. Guests are accommodated with Guest passes.
The second issue is printing. To offset the cost of printing supplies, we charge 10 cents per page monochrome, and 50 cents per page color. We've had problems where patrons printed the wrong item, printed more than they intended, printed something then forgot about it and left it behind, printed something by mistake, or printed the item and walked out the door without paying.
LPT:One has two roles: enforce payment of a print job, and reduce waste.
Regardless of what a patron chooses to print, it is not actually printed until you approach the front desk, pay for the item, and staff person releases the print job. If you lose what you printed, it can be reprinted within a three hour period. If you change your mind and don't want to print anything, simply forget about it and it'll clear out on its own. If you print the wrong item, just go back and print out what you wanted to print.
So, how do you use these solutions?
It's a very simple process for a patron. We'll start with how to use PCReservation on a Patron PC. All you need is a library card. Guests that don't have one simply walk up to the front desk and ask for a Guest pass.
When you sit down at a Patron PC, you are greeted with a welcome screen.
To login, click on the green, underlined, Welcome text. A login dialog will then display.
Enter the entire library card number, which is printed on the back of your library card. The PIN is the last four digits of your phone number. Guests only need to enter the Guest code that's printed on the Guest pass, there is no PIN.
When you click "OK," a dialog will display the length of the session, and the choice to use the computer or cancel and walk away.
Upon opting to use the PC, you will be greeted with our Acceptible Use Policy. This document, available to the public, spells out the terms of public computer usage. You must click the "Accept" button to continue. Or, if you don't agree with the terms, click "Decline" and walk away.
Once you've accepted the AUP, you'll find yourself at an ordinary Windows desktop, with one important difference, the timer window at the top center of the screen.
The timer shows how much time you have left on a session, you can move this window around but not be able to close it. When you have ten, five and one minutes remaining on a session, you'll be warned by a dialog with text, and the timer will flash.
The amount of time you'll actually have will vary based on exactly when you sign on, and whether or not all the Public computers are in use. If it's not a busy day, and not all the computers are being used, you can be granted additional time. Alternatively, you can ask a staff person for more time on your session.
If you need to get up and away from a public PC, you can lock your session, so no one else can get on and use your time. To use this feature, simply click the lock button on the timer window.
You will then have this dialog pop up asking you for a password.
Simply enter an easy-to-remember password (it can be anything you want), and enter the same password again in the second text box, and click ok. You will then have this screensaver come up, indicating that this computer is in use and locked.
If you forget your password, this isn't a problem. Simply walk up to the front desk, and ask the staff person to unlock the PC.
When you decide to leave, if it's early, it's recommended that you close your session out. Click the "Close" button on the timer window. You'll be greeted with this dialog.
You can cancel or proceed anyway, and the session is closed out and we're back at the welcome screen.
Now, there are a few more things to take note of. If all the public computers at a branch are in use and you have to wait, you can sign up for a PC using a reservation station. You'll find one near the public computers flashing a similar screen saver. The process for reserving a PC is similar to signing up for one. Simply click on "Reserve a PC," enter your card number and PIN and you're set. Or, you can walk up to a staff person and ask for a reservation.
One last note about PCReservation. Staff have the ability to not only extend a users session and unlock a PC, but also to send text messages, lock a session, or end a session remotely. Consider it a digital form of the tap-the-shoulder policy.
LPT:One on a Patron PC.
Printing on a Patron PC is a very simple process. Being a Patron or Guest does not apply as there's no patron database used, so there are no passwords or PINs required. You simply enter a unique name or number to identify the print job as your own (making it easy for the staff to find the job you want released). It'll show the total cost of the print job. Remember that nothing is printed and you aren't charged until you approach the front desk and ask for a print job to be released.
Here's a quick walk-through for you. This applies to any Application that can print. Please note that this doesn't apply to creating PDF files.
When you print, you'll be greeted with a typical printer dialog. Setup your print job as you typically do with any other printer, selecting black & white or color by highlighting the printer.
When you click on the "Print," button, you'll be greeted with a new dialog.
Don't let this scare you. All this dialog is asking for is a unique name, which can be a combination of letters and numbers, that lets a staff person identify the print job when you go to the front desk to collect it. Simply enter something that you can remember and click "OK." Whatever you enter will always be in UPPERCASE letters.
Now, you'll get the choice of whether to go ahead and create the print job or to cancel it. This dialog shows you the number of pages, the cost per page, and the total cost.
If anything is wrong, this is usually a good indicator. If you want to cancel, simply click "Cancel." Otherwise, when you click "OK," a final dialog will display telling you where to collect the print job (hint, you always go to the front desk).
Again, nothing is printed out until you go to the front desk to collect it.
When you're ready to get your print job, you simply go to the front desk, give the staff person the ID of the print job, pay for the job, and the job is then printed out and handed to you.
Simple, isn't it?