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"14 Days" Library Response is Inadequate

Apr 16, 2010   //   by William Yale   //   Uncategorized  //  5 Comments

The library has just published responses to a summary of the questions asked during the “14 Days” comment period back in February. I find many of the answers inadequate.

Question after question, the library and computing center staff writing the responses don’t directly address the question, and offer annoyingly vague and unhelpful answers that can never lead to a successful resolution. What do I mean by this? The answers either restate the current policy of the library, or say ‘our hands are tied,’ or ‘we’ll consider this in the future.’ The Trinity community cannot hold the library responsible to these answers – there’s no metric by which we can evaluate success, and thus, no success is likely to be achieved. Let’s take a look at some of the questions and answers:

  • Switching Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps.
    • Computing Center Response: Many educational institutions have moved student e-mail services to Google, and we’ve been monitoring the success of these.  Although we have concerns associated with administration and security of data, Google continues to make upgrades and improvements that address many of these.  We are planning to re-evaluate the use of Google Apps for Trinity this coming fall.
    • My response: Who’s going to evaluate the switch? How are you going to evaluate the switch? Is there going to be any participation across the Trinity community? What exactly are your concerns? Google Apps for educational institutions is completely free. In the collegiate vicinity, Wesleyan and Connecticut College both use Google Apps. As I wrote in an SGA blog post recently, Google even released a tool to migrate all Microsoft Exchange information to Google Apps seamlessly. As has been pointed out before, the library (and the college) could save so much money by not paying licensing fees to Microsoft, server costs, and the additional labor costs of IT administration. This would be a boon for Trinity. Seriously, Google Apps would save us a boatload of money. Check out this website, designed to calculate the costs of Google Apps for businesses, to get an overestimate for the costs for non-profit Trinity.
  • More printing dollars, printing too expensive, more printers around campus, system slow, printers jam.
    • Computing Center Response: We are currently evaluating all components of the printing system (printing hardware, print release stations, and print payment software) to determine if there are ways to make the printers more error-free and shorten the time to print. We do not expect to be able to allocate more funding for printing at this time, but we are working with the SGA to determine ways of keeping printing costs manageable while still providing the service.
    • My response: Again, what is the evaluation process? “We are working…” is a non-answer answer, since “keeping printing costs manageable” is meaningless if you cannot lower the costs. With the money you could save by switching to Google Apps, you could easily give every student unlimited printing and fix every problem associated with printing. We may decide against unlimited printing for environmental reasons, but you could at least increase it back to $25 again. This could eventually have a Google-centric solution too. Just this morning, I was reading about a new Google project to develop a cloud-based printing system, Google Cloud Print, in conjunction with Google’s new operating system, Chrome OS. The system works both with Chrome OS and other operating systems. While the project is still early in development, Google has released the code and documentation as open-source. With the fast pace of development of Google projects, this could eventually be used by Trinity.
  • Open up entrances to the building, especially the long walk doors; find turnstile alternatives; too many non-Trinity guests at night.
    • Library Response: The current building entrances and access policies have been designed to protect 1) the students, staff, and faculty who work in and use the library, and 2) the equipment and collections contained within it. We are attempting to achieve a balance between allowing students the freedom to come and go when they please, and ensuring the safety and security of students and their belongings when they are in the building. At this time, we cannot open up any more entrances without sacrificing a degree of security, but as we plan for building improvements in the coming years, we will bear in mind the desire for easier access.
    • My response: I concede this is a difficult problem. But this post doesn’t identify the specific barriers to changing student access to the library. The Level B entrance is currently opened through an RFID scanner, as is the Level A entrance after library hours. Why can’t this system be implemented in the inner doors on the main quad? This system has costs, but I’ve already identified serious cost-savings which could also pay for this. And unlike other costs, this is a one-time expense. This potential entrance is not staffed as the Level A and B entrances are, but neither are the Level A and B entrances staffed at night. It’s less clear what the barriers are to opening up the glass doors around the main stairwell. There has not always been a turnstile at the main entrance – this was only added in the past few years. I do not have the answers to make the layout more efficient – but these issues must be explicated further, something not accomplished by this response.
  • Enable rooms used for guest lectures (McCook, Washington room, etc.) easy video and audio recording and make recordings available online on the Trinity website or ITunes U (so they can be watched on an IPhone).
    • Library Response: Lectures cannot be taped without permissions from the lecturer, and there are many lectures and events that occur on campus every year. So, at this time we record lectures only upon request. To request that a lecture be taped, please contact Media Technology Services (http://www.trincoll.edu/Academics/AcademicResources/media/default.htm.) Recorded lectures will then be placed on a server for viewing as streaming video.
    • My response: What about iTunes U? This response makes no mention why we can’t do this. It is a great promotional tool, not only for taping lectures, but also for uploading all kinds of student creative output. Student music groups could (and do, at other colleges) upload music directly to iTunes U for distribution. Trinity could offer both a selection of videos from Trinity courses, and guest lectures. The requirement of a permission form is not a major impediment to this. Right now, students and professors have to be knowledgeable about and actively seek out this form and Media Technology Services. The use of the service and form could be advertised and made the default option for major lectures.
  • Creation of a Trinity wiki?
    • Computing Center Response: Anyone with a Trinity login can create a personal wiki at http://personal.trincoll.edu. Once logged in, use Site Settings to allow others to edit and view your wiki. This wiki will be viewable only by people with Trinity College logins that you have given permission to access.
    • My response: A personal wiki defeats the purpose of a Trinity-wide wiki. I don’t want a wiki on personal.trincoll.edu/personal/wyale! I want a wiki on wiki.trincoll.edu! “Given permission to access?” The idea is that everyone is able to access it!

Not mentioned in any of the questions or responses was that Blackboard could potentially be eliminated through the switch to Google Apps also. This is a far more complicated transition because we currently run the administration of Bantam Bucks through the Blackboard Commerce system. The Blackboard website, however, could completely be substituted with Google Apps. I’m unfamiliar with Moodle and what role it could play in this transition.

This is a long post, I know, but I have only focused on a fraction of all of the comments submitted and responses received.

5 Comments

  • I agree that they should be making a larger commitment to switching to google apps which would free significant funds for printing and other things. Also I agree that there is no reason the long walk entrance could not be opened up. I wonder if campus safety should be approached concerning that issue. Also can you share where exactly the entirety of their responses are posted? The one thing I do want to point out is that as far as blackboard they are completely switching to Moodle for online academic resources beginning next semester. Though I have no information about blackboard commerce

  • The responses from the Library and Computing Center are posted on the original 14 Days site: http://14days.trincoll.edu

  • The links for all of the references mentioned are linked in the body of the text. Great news about Moodle!

  • […] Sourced from: Trinity College Student Government Association » William Yale […]

  • Good job! what a great post! Thank you very much.

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