With the increased number of group projects being assigned, I was surprised to find out that there is no group area where teams can have access to Word/PowerPoint machines. There are three internet capable dummy terminals in the designated group area but if a team needs to use Microsoft Office they are forced into the "quiet zone" labs. Please add computers with more features in public areas, or have a group lab where teams can freely discuss ideas.
Interim Associate University Librarian for Public Services Barbara Anderson replies...
If it's true that you can't judge a book by its cover, then maybe it's also true that you can't judge a library computer workstation by its desktop. The "three internet capable dummy terminals" in the second floor group study area are actually equipped with more than just internet access. In fact, OpenOffice, an open source suite of productivity software, is installed on all Cabell Library public workstations.
As our Head of Library Information Systems, Jimmy Ghaphery has pointed out in response to blog comments posted on May 2 and May 9, "OpenOffice is a free and highly regarded alternative to Microsoft Office. Among other things, it will open, edit, and create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files."
If you haven't used this before, I urge you to give it a try. You can launch the applications from "Start > Programs > Open Office" or by selecting the flying seagull icon from the system tray in the bottom right corner of the monitor display. Library installations are configured so that documents you create and edit in OpenOffice will be saved by default with the extensions of their Microsoft counterparts (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.), so you can open them easily and continue editing them with Microsoft Office applications later, if you wish. More information about OpenOffice (including user guides and online help) is available at http://www.openoffice.org/
I use OpenOffice fairly often (in fact, I'm writing this at home with the Open Office text document application), and while there may be a few minor features that don't transfer perfectly between applications, I've found OpenOffice to have a high degree of interoperability with Microsoft Office products.
We may be able to expand our access to Microsoft Office during the next year if funding permits, and we hope to be able to increase the number of public computers available in Cabell Library, as well. You may have noticed that we're a little crowded in Cabell, so I don't know if we can come up with a group lab space, but we've had some recent discussions about purchasing large computer monitors and configuring them so they can be viewed by small groups. Again, funding and priorities are always an issue, but there may be some improvements during the coming year that will address your needs.
Thanks for your ideas and suggestions, John!