In which I Have a Little Talk with Myself and Tour Two Libraries

Here I am, just a week into blogging, and I need to have a little talk with myself. I should know better by now than to leave anything to chance. Check and double check. Just because it is a blog and an informal mode of writing doesn’t mean mistakes are acceptable. And I made mistakes in a previous post.

I’m fortunate that Kirsten of  Into the Stacks commented about  “For Just $29.95 You Can Have Access to Your Own Article for 24 Hours!!!”. She began, “First off, as an academic librarian it worries me that your local state university doesn’t let local patrons have access to its resources” [see]. This started me thinking: I know I haven’t been able to access catalogs at both the University of Alabama’s main Tuscaloosa and its Huntsville campuses, but was I doing something wrong? Time to check.

Last night I visited the Gorgas Library, the main library of  UA-Tuscaloosa. I had been on the third floor just this past Friday afternoon and hadn’t been able to use a workstation because I lacked an ID. Sunday night I asked a librarian if  I could use the catalog without an ID (I can access both campus’s book catalogs remotely. UAH’s is sometimes very very slow to redirect and sometimes fails to do so, but I did finally manage to get on).

She directed me to an area on the lobby level that has about 16 or 20 computers for use by the community or those with University IDs. I could search the catalog for books, and, moreover, could search for journal articles and read these articles, something I can’t  do remotely. Hurray!

The librarian did, however, confirm that I was right about not being able to use the workstations in the stacks. Those in the lobby area were the only ones I could use for any purpose. And I was correct about not being able to bring my laptop and get onto the University’s WiFi anywhere on campus, including the library.

This morning I visited the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s library.  Like UA, they too have about 16 or 20 computers for use by the community or those with University IDs through which I could search the catalog for books and articles and read these articles.

 But there is a big difference.

To use the UAH computers, I would need to present a photo ID and attain a guest ID number. In Tuscaloosa, no such hurdle was placed in my way. On the other hand,  at UAH I was told that once I attained my guest ID number, I  could access workstations away from the community-use designated computers in order to view the catalog. The no WiFi policy for non-University citizens held, however. Even with one of its guest ID numbers, I couldn’t use my laptop in the library, let alone anywhere else on campus.

Who knows? Are there as many policies as there are state-supported schools? Why is a picture ID required at one and not at the other?

5 thoughts on “In which I Have a Little Talk with Myself and Tour Two Libraries”

  1. I thought the Patriot Act was the excuse for doing it.

    If they aren’t tracking what people read, why else would they want a photo ID? But are they really and truly tracking, or just trying to suggest that they are tracking, like having CCTV cameras in plain view but never putting film in them?

    It’s a biggie if they are truly tracking, but I suspect it is a bluff: offensive and silly but not dangerous.

  2. Having to present an ID to use the resources is only a biggie if the library is tracking what each user accesses. Many libraries, however, don’t do this because of the Patriot Act. We’re kinda into that whole Free Speech thing, and for us it includes the freedom to read.

  3. Thanks, Kirsten, for your suggestions. And I won’t try to make sense of it all. I prefer UA Tuscaloosa’s policy. Their students can use the community computers without ID, too, in the unlikely event that they forget their card and its number: unlikely because it is needed to do anything on campus, it seems.

    The idea of having to present a photo ID to use electronic resources bothers me, but so do a few other things ;). Must pick our battles. This isn’t a biggie — or is it?

  4. Generally speaking, every academic library makes its own policies and policies tend to evolve depending on circumstances. So even two libraries in the same system might have local variations. I wouldn’t recommend trying to find a rhyme or reason behind the differences — it’ll just drive you batty.

    I’m actually rather surprised that you didn’t have to show ID to get a login at the one, given that they make their students use individual logins. Generally, libraries seem to have either open computer access OR individual logins. Doing both just isn’t consistent.

    I am very glad that you were able to access their resources, however. Since they don’t have wifi access for non-students (this is probably a campus IT thing, not a library thing, btw), you might ask if you can use a thumb drive. That way you can just save articles instead of having to print them out. Or, you can email them to yourself.

    Oh, and speaking of articles, I don’t know of any particular resources on the recent history of journal publication practices, but I’d bet UA has access to a database called Library Literature. A search in there would definitely give you articles from the librarian point of view, and maybe even some from the publishers’.

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