Anne reported that Zimbra's email functionality is still troublesome. She said that she will supply accounts to those who wish to experiment with the system.
Nick reported that the automated backup project was on schedule for the next fiscal year, and that new, updated price quotes from Dell have been submitted to Grace Agnew for processing.
Joe Abraham is investigating various software options for the librarians to use in coordinating their class instruction program. Candidates, non perfect, so far include Doodle, Survey Monkey, and the Sakai survey function. The goal is to have the program in place for the beginning of the Spring Semester. Nick suggested trying Meeting Maker. Anne will talk to Chad, see what he thinks, and email PCWG with any news.
Nick introduced Gayle Stein of OIRT to talk to the group about Adobe Connect (the videoconferencing software) that OIRT plans to integrate with Sakai. OIRT currently has a 50-seat license, and is seeking approval to boost that to 100, paid for by student computing fees. Should they eventually exceed 100 seats, Gayle said a cost-sharing agreement may have to be introduced. Technically the license refers to 50 "named users," i.e., human beings, as opposed to departments or service desks. Adobe Connect requires end users to install a Flash plug-in the first time. She said it is 30-second process. Adobe Connect allows for combined chat, audio-only, and video conferencing, as well as document sharing. Adobe Connect may be used from home as well, with a NetID login. Sakai "guests" can have access too. Gayle said there is currently no on-campus training available beyond the Adobe Connect tutorials.
Joe A. mentioned that Adobe Connect might be used for on-line office hours via Sakai. Rich S. mentioned that he and Andrew R. had tested Adobe Connect as a possible platform for the virtual reference project. He said that while it was not ideal for virtual reference, because it would require that initial Flash download from the off-site patron, still it has many features that may make it a good RUL web conference tool. For example, librarians and staff may be able to join a feature rich video conference from their office desktop computer instead of going to a standard videoconferencing room. He and Andrew volunteered to perform more testing and report back to PCWG.
Gayle said she would test Adobe Connect for distance learning classes. Rich S. mentioned "thumbnails," the option of having several video windows running simultaneously, and said that can result in too much lag time, especially when end-user computers are factored into the equation. Joe A. recommended, and it was agreed, that some trial accounts should be set up for testing. (The next day four accounts were established, for Nick at TSB, Rich Sandler at NBL, John Gibson at Robeson, and Chris Singh at Dana.) Currently Adobe Connect is still in a pilot phase, though Gayle said it is pretty much a given at this point that it will be chosen.
At Anne's initiative a lively discussion developed concerning the laptop lending pilot program. Though the goal is to get a pilot up and running as soon as possible, it was clear that there are many details to be worked out. Anne supplied a provisional spec sheet for the laptops. It calls for a six-cell battery, 160GB hard drive, 4GB memory, 15.4" display, Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz processor, 8X DVD +/- RW drive, and touchpad-only (i.e., no mouse), at a cost of about $620 per laptop. Below are some of the many questions to be worked out.
Some people thought a nine-cell battery might be better. Extra batteries should be purchased. Some thought a power cord should be available, too, as it would provide for less wear-&-tear on the batteries as well as provide for a brighter screen. Some people thought Netbooks might be a better way to go. But if the laptops are meant for in-library use only (which they apparently are) and not to take to class to take notes, and if the goal is to recreate a mobile version of the standard library workstation, then a full, "business class" laptop will be required. That seemed to be the consensus. People thought the laptops should be loaned only to current students and employees of Rutgers, and not to community borrowers. Laptop attrition rates were discussed. It was mentioned that a certain amount of loss was to be expected. However Nick mentioned that, in a program he was familiar with at a former school, that they had lost only 2 out of 50 laptops over a two-year period, plus four broken LCDs. Group gaming was noted as a potential problem. Most people seemed to think that, even if the libraries cannot control what a laptop is used for, that the students will, on balance, use them in a responsible way.
Anne said a multiple-laptop recharging station will be used to store the laptops and recharge their batteries. The number of laptops to be kept in stock remains a question. It was mentioned that, according to some articles on such programs, even though laptop lending programs tend to be popular with students, when there is dissatisfaction, the problem tends to be not IT related, but rather with the fact that there were not enough laptops available; so it might be better to have more rather than less laptops in stock. Publicity, too, seems to be very important in getting a laptop lending program off to a good start.
People thought that such a loan program could be quite labor intensive for the service desks involved, Access Services in particular. Though laptops could be loaned out from a reference desk, it was noted that their hours are more limited than Access Services, and for the program to have the most value, students should be able to loan laptops into the evening, beyond when reference desks are open. Adding to the labor, there needs to be a quick laptop inventory, to check the working status of a laptop as it goes out and when it comes back. Most programs require a Lending Agreement to be signed by the student, acknowledging responsibility for loss or damage. Service desks may also keep the student's ID, as well as sign the laptop out electronically, until it is returned. A loan period of three hours was considered a good start, with an option for renewal. The problems of late returns, possible fines, and storage of the laptops when the building is closed were also discussed. Indeed, so many concerns were raised that Anne said she would bring the issues up with Judy Gardner for her consideration.
Initially Kilmer Library was the only candidate for the pilot, but the group seemed to think that multiple pilots might be a good idea. The Art Library was mentioned as a potential site, as well as Dana, if they can get a good RUWireless connection near their Access Services desk, which they report is currently not the case. Anne said a Fall Semester rollout may not be a good idea, given that that is a peak time for Access Services. And if this January is too soon, perhaps sometime after January but before next September would be best.
Next Meeting: December 15, 2009.