Sunday, April 13, 2008

Usability Testing (s544 #11)

Here I sit, In the Allen County Public Library's Public Computing Center...On a Sunday. This is not an easy gig. Sundays are notoriously rough. I understand why. If you spend you week working and don't have a computer, sometimes a Sunday is the only time open for computing. This center is open from 12 to 5 pm during the school year. It is always packed on Sundays, with a 25 to 60 minute wait. Tempers flare towards the end of the day amongst late arriving patrons who can't reserve a computer because they are all booked until closing. This makes for drama because these patrons are :
1. Pissed off at you because you are sitting at the desk in the computer center that is full.
2. In a last minute panic.
3. Upset because they see kids playing games on the computers they so desperately need.

This puts staff in a bad place.
1. You have to absorb the anger that is directed at you without taking it personally. You are not intentionally denying them access to a computer. The number of workstations is limited and it is based on a first come, first served basis and library staff do not make any kind of value judgments about what patrons do with their system-alloted 1 hour of computer time.

The pace picks up, I'm up and down the aisles, helping people access their government assistance accounts. I help a middle aged man and then a teen boy set up an Email account. I inform residents of Allen County who wish to use library computers that they are required to have library cards. The time goes quickly most of the time. It grinds to a halt when the room is full and there are six people standing in line, each needing personal attention. Or when a small child starts to cry hysterically. Or when there is a special needs patron who requires all of my attention. Or I look at the clock and calculate that I will be here another 4 hours.


Sandra Osborn said...

Sounds like a tough shift on Sundays. I never thought about how libraries are probably the only place for internet access on a Sunday. It seems like they should ban game-playing when other people are waiting to use the computers. But I understand that you can't really dictate what someone deems important computer activity. Good luck.

Steve said...

Then you start calculating that we have 5 more Sundays to go until the summer repieve!

Steve said...

I meant reprieve. Tax Day's even got my spelling messed up.

Mary Alice Ball said...

Sounds tough. Similar to the end of semester in an academic library. I was always amazed at the number of seniors who came to the library for the first time and were wildly trying to find resources for a final paper due the next day.