By Jaime Saintvil
Published: February 14th, 2018
It’s 11:30 p.m. in the Library Cafe, you’ve just finished your third cup of coffee, and you’re working on an essay for your final class project. You’ve written six pages and only have your conclusion left to write. The screen says you have ten minutes left and you scramble to finish before you’re booted off. After you finish typing your last word, you are signed off the library computer, and your work is lost. O, the agony of delete! The likelihood of this scenario has increased this year with Brooklyn College’s new computer system.
Students who entered the Brooklyn College library and the Library Cafe this spring semester were met with a new sign-in system for reserving computers. The new system puts limits on students’ use. It is not only inconvenient, but it also hinders students who are working on tests or projects, forcing them to reserve new computers every two hours with the potential of losing their work.
The system is a leap into the future for Brooklyn College. Unlike past years when students had to hand over their school IDs, students can now sign in to library computers by simply inputting their EMPLID and their date of birth. A short pilot was installed on the lower level of the library during the fall semester. Soon afterwards, a software update was introduced to the rest of the library and café. The rush system has introduced some inevitable obstacles as well as features that don’t seem to have factored in students’ behaviors.
Brooklyn College’s adaption of this system is in line with other City University of New York (CUNY) schools, such as Kingsborough Community College, and some public libraries. That said, the primary attraction for students using the libraries on college grounds is convenience. The old system—similar to a public library’s—allowed students to complete tests, homework, or class projects without fear of time limits or losing their work. The cafe is a prime example of where it’s commonplace to see students work until midnight and beyond on projects.
As it stands, when users sign in, they receive an hour and are prompted to extend time at half-hour intervals, for up to two hours. At that point, the student has two options: go to the desk to ask for a manual extension—this has not been verified nor has a lab technician corroborated that it’s imaginable—or go back to the kiosk and be assigned to another computer.
Celina Trinh, a business major at Brooklyn College, commented about the constant queries to extend your time.
“It makes me feel anxious about losing my work,” Trinh said.
Alex K., a history and political science major, echoes Trinh’s sentiments.
“I have five tabs up and this [time extension icon] keeps popping up. It’s kind of stupid and annoying,” Alex said.
Another issue arises when considering situations when the computers are in high demand, especially around finals. Students may not be able to extend their times, and therefore users will be given a countdown before they are signed off.
The scenario mentioned above puts a user’s work in jeopardy of being lost if not saved in time, either through user error or because of the present settings of the system.
“[Students] should never lose their work because there are 10-minute, five-minute and three-minute reminders to save their work,” the head of reference and instruction Mariana Reledaga said. Nonetheless, accidents happen, especially under stress of deadlines, getting to work, or forgetfulness.
But the new system isn’t all bad. It allows students to have more freedom and cancels the liability of the library losing their IDs, a problem that existed with the previous system. Nonetheless, the new system has its own faults, such as hard-to-read text on kiosk computers, the inability to check your reservation (in case you missed it), and cancellation of your reservation if you choose to use an express computer instead (express computers have a 10-minute limit). A ticket system for the computer reservations was shelved due to their printers not being able to stay online. Another issue is that many of the express computers were turned into sign-in computers. These aren’t mere nuisances; these are the effects of a rushed project. Students lead busy lives, and seconds and minutes add up.
The library stated that they did consider student feedback before initiating the new system. Although this may be true, students don’t seem to have benefited from the outcome.
“We have the very difficult job of trying to set up a system that’s as fair as possible,” Reledaga said. That is absolutely correct: this not the library’s fault, but students can make sure that everything is kept fair. Although students don’t think they have a voice, they certainly do, and they can use it to try and change this policy to one that is more user-friendly. This is the time to raise the volume before the unpleasant features of this plan become permanent.
These facilities are not only run by your ambitions and goals but also your tuition. Let your voices be heard by the school’s administration, so that every facility is run to your advantage. A college that doesn’t have the exhaustive cooperation of their students is not a functioning institution.