Thoughts on BYOD

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend that is sweeping IT organizations was brought to you by Apple. Ok, well not really but the iPad did launch the tablet trend, which played a huge part in BYOD gaining momentum. The cheap and mobile nature of tablets make it easier than ever for someone to lug around a customized computer. No longer do they need to be tied down to the laptop (or desktop) that work provides. They’re forcing their company’s hand and making them support their personal device. But this trend is also entering another arena: the library. However, instead of the tablet owner being the driving force, it’s the library administration. Hereare my thoughts on how the BYOD trend differs between libraries and IT companies.

 

IT Companies

Here we find employees like me bringing tablets to work as a secondary device. Being physically lighter and graced with longer battery life, it’s much easier to carry a tablet around to meetings. It’s also handy to use in my cube as a second screen. For example, say I am troubleshooting an application problem. In the stead of having to either switch back and forth between the helpful article and the application in question or shrinking both to fit in my laptop’s screen, I can have the article running on my tablet while the application gets full-screen treatment on my laptop. I’m a much more efficient employee in this manner.

Information Security folks are faced with the challenge of letting these devices into the network even though they have no control over what is installed on them. There’s little doubt that some surfing of the internet and other non-work related activities occurs on these devices. But while reading about A-rod’s latest tomfoolery on the company time is seen as an acceptable compromise to get the undeniable boost in productivity. So the dance continues. Companies circle the employees’ devices trying to allow them access to the network without leaving it vulnerable to threats the uncontrolled device introduces.

Libraries

Even before eBooks and Google shifted the paradigm for libraries, the concession of installing computers in the building to allow for internet access became widespread. So much so that gaggles of patrons flock to the library to check their email and Facebook accounts. It was embraced so fervently that there are a goodly number of folks that see no need to buy a device of their own. The library provides internet access and word processing applications so that it’s as easy to watch the latest Justin Bieber video as it is to write a resume. If that’s all they do, what’s the point of buying a device of their own?

Here’s where librarians must practice tough love. As more devices are purchased to meet the demand, more time is spent maintaining the technology. The technology librarians have to not only stay up-to-date on rapidly changing technology but also toe the line between censorship and protecting patrons from being subjected to a miscreant’s unseemly surfing habits. By embracing a BYOD policy, the librarians only have to concern themselves with the censorship dilemma.

Final Thoughts

IT companies normally have higher budgets and entire departments devoted to securing the network. They’ll have a much easier time instituting a Mobile Device Management (MDM) program to manage this influx of devices. Librarians on the other hand have neither the budget nor the departments to handle this issue with ease. That said, they owe it their patrons to try. For centuries libraries have been connecting people with information that can be turned into knowledge. In a world that is becoming increasing virtual, patrons whose only exposure to that virtual reality is using a limited library computer are doing themselves a disservice. Libraries can help patrons really learn their way around a computer.

It’s a delicate operation, though. You can’t just take away all the computers, because you’ll drive  away more people than you’ll help. So what’s the first step? I think the good folks over at the Robbins Library have a great idea: go wireless. Since the most resistant folks are familiar only with desktops, pushing them to a laptop will be the first step towards digital independence.

I encourage you to check out their plan: http://robbinslibrary.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/this-september-were-cutting-the-cord/

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