Digital Library to ease restrictions on computers

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By Benjamin Kwiecien

By Benjamin Kwiecien

In the past, the computers in the Digital Library were in a very restricted state; students could not load any programs at all except for one of two Web browsers and embedded Web applications, no files could be accessed or saved by the system (not even on floppy disks), and users were not even able to right-click on Web pages.

During the winter, visitors to the library would begin to discover something drastically different: These and many other limitations were suddenly removed.

Even though a timed log in session was still required, the computers suddenly were able to do useful things besides just browse the Web, such as open and save Microsoft Office documents.

Students will also find that they will be able to play DVDs, view streaming video from the library’s online archive, run software from CDs, and more.

Jacqueline Lesch, public services librarian is very excited about the changes that are taking place at the library.

“We wanted to offer a more well-rounded user experience,” she said, describing the nature of the software updates.

She also pointed out that the changes are about more than just new software.

“It’s really more of a paradigm shift than new technology,” she said.

In the past, imposed limitations were meant to secure the systems in the library, but they ended up becoming a hindrance to student productivity.

“We had complete control,” Lesch said. Students didn’t even have the ability to save work or assignments without having to resort to unusual workarounds.

“There were just too many restrictions,” she said.

According to Lesch, the changes were brought about as a result of a sudden initiative that was made by Executive Dean Technology and Learning resources, Cecilia Wong.

“It is her vision that brought us to where we are now,” she said. “She wants fair and equitable access for the students.”

While this initiative enabled more freedom for the students, there was some concern about the security of the computer systems.

“It went against the grain of our network administrator,” Lesch said.

Even though there was that initial concern, there was an overwhelming level of support.

“Everyone was happy to see this happen,” she said.

Surprisingly, there is in fact no software in place that monitors how the students use the machines.

“We do not typically monitor your use of the Internet,” said Lesch. “There is the concern for what sort of things we are going to run in to, but it’s happy concern.”

Student Christopher Balisky felt that the likelihood of abuse was quite high.

“I haven’t actually seen anyone looking at porn, but I bet there are people that do,” he said.

He also believes that students will try to take advantage of the more open systems.

“People do stuff that hogs the bandwidth, and they will definitely use peer to peer file sharing,” he said.

Risks aside, most students are quite pleased with the changes.

“It makes it easier to copy a picture or something like that and paste it somewhere. You can also get to the properties easier and get URLs,” student Ashlen Dittes said.

Whether or not the students will abuse their new freedoms remains to be seen.

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