If you've been into the library today, you've noticed two things. First of all, school's back in session, so we have students again. Yay! I'm at the reference desk right now, and it's quite picturesque. Snow falling outside in gentle flakes, students back working at the computers, professors hurrying by to get classes rolling: how can you not like a Maine University in winter?
So that's the one change. The other change is that we have signs up all over the place notifying everyone that we've stopped offering open access computers, meaning there are now no machines in the library where you can get on to surf the internet without signing up for an account and logging yourself on to the machine. We've offered this for years and years, and yet we had to stop. Some of our loyal patrons are understandably upset, so I thought I might take a moment to explain why we had to bring this chapter of Mantor technology to a close.
There's this thing called "copyright." We were recently notified (by lawyers for an entertainment company) that someone had been using a library computer to download copyrighted material illegally. When I went to check and see who the culprit was, I discovered that . . . I couldn't know who the culprit was, since he or she had used one of our two open access machines. This puts the library in a predicament. If we do nothing, then if the lawyerly types find our computers being used to download illegal material, they can bring a lawsuit against us and the university as the Internet Service Provider (ISP) who allowed the illegal content to be downloaded.
We love our patrons, but we're kind of allergic to lawsuits, and we don't really condone the whole "illegal activities" thing on our computers. In fact, you have to sign a document when you get an account that says you'll not do anything illegal. Up until last week, we had two open access machines where you didn't have to do that.
Now, we don't.
The moral of the story? Don't abuse a good thing. Think of others and of the consequences of your actions. We try to put our patrons first and do as much as we can do meet everyone's technology and information needs, but in the end, we have to do things to keep the library open and available to the majority.
I want to note that you can still come in and get an account to use our computers. You just need some ID. A computer account is free, and you can use it whenever we're open. You can still do all the things you'd like to do and have done before.
You just can't do them 100% anonymously.