Friday, May 28, 2004
When people want to print from our public access computers it's kind of an involved, cumbersome process requiring visits to several stations located throughout the library. First patrons must name their print job on the computer, send the job to the print station located on the other side of the library, put money on a print card by the copy machine located up a small set of stairs, and go back down the stairs to the print station, bring up their job, then print. If they didn't check at the print station beforehand and underestimated the cost of their job, they have to go back to the copy machine and add more money to their card. (Each sheet of paper is $.15). It's not exactly an ideal, streamlined system, but I'm not complaining after talking to a recently hired colleague who came from the Chicago system.
For reasons that I cannot fathom other than administrative incompetence, the Chicago system didn't want to invest in printing software so it simply let patrons print for free. You can imagine the abuses. The printer was right next to her desk, so not only did she have to spend the entire day listening to its labored racket as it churned out ream after ream of print jobs, she also spent a good deal of her day dealing with paper jams, replacing expensive toner cartridges, and feeding the machine paper. Since there were no financial consequences to printing, people would be careless about the size of print jobs they would send, really take advantage (I've always wanted a hard copy of every e-mail ever sent to me), or just print out phone book size jobs because they're anti-social, discourteous asses and could. Many jobs were never even claimed. The waste was appalling, and the printer was often out of order from overuse, which prevented those people who legitimately needed to print from doing so much of the time.
She said that the library administration claimed that they offered printing at no cost because they believed that it should be free as a public service. The copy machines at libraries aren't free, so why on earth should printing be free? I really don't understand that mentality, other than they didn't want to make the investment in the printing software, which would have paid for itself in about two days, or they just didn't want to go through the effort of finding and installing printing software.
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