Check It Out

Posted On Feb 6 2007 by

I’ve been a little delinquent since getting back from ALA Midwinter. Apologies to faithful readers. In a way, though, I am glad I waited, because I have a segue from my last post about Checkpoint systems.

I was pretty excited a while back about one of the rapidly expanding areas of library automation–library self service, PC reservation, payment systems, etc. I don’t really have a good umbrella name for these services, so please send suggestions.

I was interested to read (belatedly on my part) that 3M has partnered with Comprise Technologies to offer Comprise’s Smart Access Manager (SAM) software to 3M customers. 3M remains a giant in the self-service segment, but I have also been quite impressed with Comprise since meeting them at ALA a few years ago.

Comprise Smart Money Manager

Though I have admittedly not done deep research into this space, I find things like the Smart Money Manager pretty interesting. With their self-service payment systems, the folks at Comprise went to the experts in disintermediated point-of-sale transactions–Las Vegas. Makes me want to turn all the lights on and take all the clocks off the walls…maybe patrons would never leave the library. I’m betting patrons would prefer slot machines to most library terminals.

Serve patrons, not computers
This is a bit of a tagline from Userful, providers of DiscoverStation, another provider of the suite of services for which I have no name, but which Userful calls Public Computing Features:

  • Patron Authentication
  • PC Reservation
  • Print Control
  • Multilingual & Accessibility Support
  • Session Management
  • Built-In Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)
  • Centralized Administrative Control
  • Firewall and Virus Protection
  • Internet Filtering (CIPA Compliant)

Combine this with the list of self-service offerings from companies like Comprise, Envisionware, Libramation, and others, and it almost looks like public computing and self-service Nirvana. I spend too much time wondering why more public libraries don’t make their web interfaces more attractive. Now I am wondering why academic libraries aren’t copying public libraries to make self service and computer servicing easier.

It’s possible to spend a lot of time investigating these products before one even encounters “RFID” anywhere, though there is a lot of overlap there, too.


[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]

Last Updated on: January 19th, 2024 at 12:22 am, by Andrew K. Pace

Written by Andrew K. Pace

One response to “Check It Out

  1. Andrew,

    Thank you for quoting our list of public computing features. About the terminology issue you brought up, we use the terms “public computing” and “public access computing” to denote computing designed for public as opposed to personal use. We all know that PC stands for Personal Computer. Likewise, anyone who has ever been responsible for maintaining PC’s and networks knows the amount of damage that trusted, trained employees can inadvertently do to their computers. When we put PC’s out for public use, they we additionally expose them to malicious as well as unintentional damage and require various lockdown pieces to protect them. The pay for print and reservation issues tie in with this, as do self-check and RFID. They all have to do with sharing computing resources, and in the case of libraries with sharing print and other resources.

    Rather than following the path of modification, we developed a new paradigm that we call “public access computing.” Rather than modifying PC’s, we designed a system specifically for use in a public computing environment. By beginning with the concept of public computing, we were able to determine the necessary functions and features and to integrate them, rather than adding them ad hoc. We see the concept of public computing as the framework from which to understand many library-related computing issues. These include basics, such as print cost control, reservations and time control, and security of personal information, but they also include issues that many libraries have not begun to deal with, such as public computing in non-English languages for use by immigrant groups. The framework includes not only end-user functionality and features, but IT systems management since scalability becomes a huge issue in multi-branch library systems.

    The term “public access computing” is also used by WebJunction at and the Gates Foundation at I don’t know the origin of the term, but at one time there was a Public Access Computer Systems Review published by the University of Houston Libraries. It ceased publication in 2000, but its archive is still available at

    That, in short, is what we mean be “public computing,” and why we use the term. Sorry I missed you at Midwinter. Hope to see you in DC.