Computer layouts in libraries: photos and diagrams.

The associated discussion for this page is elsewhere. While you are waiting for the photographs to load, ask yourself why it cost 4000 per machine to install the so-called People's Network in UK libraries when substantially the same job could have been done for upwards of 500, including infrastructure. The Peoples Network project utilised around 130 million of 'good cause' Lottery money in pursuit of 'social inclusion',  'e-government' and other political objectives.


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Public access computers are now available in shops and internet cafes throughout the world. "Coin in the slot" is becoming a standard feature. It is convenient both for users and staff because usually no time has to be wasted in paying for a machine. Privacy screens are sometimes rudimentary but usually better than have been provided in UK libraries. The piece of plywood shown here probably cost less than 2! The coin boxes work by disconnecting the mouse. A 'count down display' (top left of box) shows the number of minutes left. Unlike the centralised, complex and expensive 'command and control' systems used in UK libraries (where unit computer costs have averaged 4000) 'ready to go' packages like these based on an off-the-shelf mid-range PC can be installed for upwards of around 500. The computers shown here (in a shop in the UK) run standard Windows programs. Access to all folders is available and internet history files can be deleted by users (if they wish) at the end of a session. No filtering is used and the 'conditions of use' run to a couple of sentences - unlike the many pages of  legalised verbiage ("acceptable use policies") displayed in most UK libraries with their overhead of bureaucracy. Printing and scanning is often available via simple and cheap network connections. Typical charges in the UK are 20 or 30 minutes for 1 with longer periods being cheaper - two hours for 3.


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In Wurzburg (population c.135,000) only six public access computers are available in the central public library. (This compares with six in Sidmouth library in the UK, which has a tenth of the population). Some are accessed via 'coin in the slot' machines (centre of right hand photo) similar to those seen in the UK. Again, countdown timers are used. No privacy screens are provided but the machines are located on the first floor, away from the book stacks and casual onlookers. The library has a cafe, extensive reading areas and toilets.

Wurzburg also has several popular internet cafes. These attract and are staffed by 'experts' (some as young as ten.....) who are only too willing to share their knowledge! In total, the town probably has over 60 public access machines. Most are in internet cafes with late-night 7-day opening hours. No ID is required. In some, regular uses can log-on using a pre-purchased coded card which gives cheaper per-hour rates than are available to occasional drop-in patrons. No filtering seemed to be employed.


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The new and the old in Wurzburg. The largest privately owned internet cafe in a modern shopping precinct features dozens of TFT computers. Opening hours are 10 am to midnight (or thereabouts). Some machines are in full view, others afford more privacy. Behind the historic facade in the town square is a modern and obviously well financed public library. Unlike so many in the UK, its quiet ambience has not been destroyed by ill-considered installation of 'free to use' computers that have attracted unruly and noisy people.


link to a conference/workshop paper (pdf format) discussing use of space in libraries

link to presentation overheads (pdf format) associated with the above paper


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