By Melanie Hedgespeth ι Nov. 30, 2013
Throughout my years at Salina Public Library, I’ve wanted to expand and improve our OPACs. (OPAC = Online Public Access Catalog) Patrons utilize the OPACs to simply browse the catalog, find what they want to check out and move on to gather those materials. At the library, we have multiple catalog computers, and I wanted to see those get used for all of our valuable library services, not just the catalog.
In my search for something better, I came across Google Chromeboxes.
Google Chromeboxes have many advantages for library patrons and for tech administration. The Chromeboxes are slim and trim, not bulky like a desktop PC. All of the software and storage needs are in the Google Cloud, which of course is massive. By using Google’s platform, we get their awesome Chrome browser, virus protection and web apps. Absolutely no software has to be loaded on the device, therefore no special software licenses are necessary. The devices also automatically update. (That is a blessing to any tech!)
At the library, our Chromeboxes are managed through Google’s public session administration console. Within the public sessions, I can set our own terms of service, provide apps and extensions, and set session limits. I also set the systems to never remember browser history, enable safe browsing and set specific library service web pages for access. There are numerous policies you can set for the Chromeboxes and those policies can be changed at anytime quite easily. Our Chromeboxes allow users to access all of our databases, all of our virtual library services such as Tumblebooks, Sunflower eLibrary, One Click Digital, Wowbrary and, of course, our library catalog and website.
Our youth Chromeboxes, open up Tumblebooks and other Chrome web apps to allow kids to sit at the catalog PCs and read online books. Each Chromebox has headphones to allow youth to listen to books without distraction.
All our Chromeboxes allow printing via Google Cloud Print. With cloud printing, I can give the devices access without having to load printers on each Chromebox.
For security, each Chromebox is locked with a universal security cable that you buy for devices such as laptops and can be purchased anywhere.
Cost wise, Chromeboxes are cheaper than a desktop, use less electricity when in use compared to a desktop and do not require the purchase of software licenses. When purchasing a Chromebox to be managed, you buy a one-time administrative license for $30.
In the future, we hope to expand the use of Chrome devices to allow our Technology Center users to sign on with their own Google account or use a guest account. With a Google account, users can access their own files anywhere, anytime and use the variety of free software Google provides within their massive cloud infrastructure. At this point though, we are waiting until there is a SIP connection to our library system database. (It’s in the works!)
*If you want to view setup documentation for catalog chromeboxes, email email@example.com.
Melanie Hedgespeth is the head of the library’s technology department.