Thin Clients: a "blessing" for a small library

In 2008, the La Conner Regional Library was looking at replacing its old public computers.  At least one crashed on a daily basis, only some of the drives worked and they were a pain since we have no onsite IT people. 

We hire out heavy tech support, and their employee, Brendan, came to me with the idea of thin clients.  He had a co-worker who had experience using them in a school environment and he thought they would be good for a small library with no tech support on staff. Brendan made a presentation to our board citing the article in Library Journal, 2/1/2006--It Pays to Be Thin by Diane Romm.

It was a learning curve for Brendan, the printer wouldn't work for a time and with no drives how could people bring in resumes to print? We had to lock down several features to prevent hacking.  But it was worth some trial and error.  We now have some external drives that plug into the USBs for discs they might bring in and using thumb drives proved to be an easy process although much different than a traditional machine. Best thing is they take up less space than traditional computers.  Space is a premium for this small library so we were delighted to be able to relocate the public computers freeing up space. 

The best thing is thin clients have no "brains"--internal storage to get messed up or wear out.  They should last much longer than any desktop computer.  They are also much less expensive.  They draw from the server and therefore you load programs only once, updates only once.  Just the money saved in paying a company to load updates on each individual computer paid for one of the thin clients, maybe even two when you think of the time it takes to load programs 5 times. Two years later we have had no problems with our original 5 thin clients and we anticipate them lasting many more years.  They have been a real blessing for this small library. 

Joy Neal, Library Director

La Conner Regional Library

La Conner, WA 


Can you elaborate a bit on some of the issues you had to work through? Specifically...

  • Did you experience any software issues when you switched to thin clients? We use thin clients for our OPACs and ran into problems with our eBooks (NetLibrary is our vendor), specifically with the Adobe files rendering.
  • I've heard that streaming video is a problem with these thin clients. Just wondering how you've dealt with this? Especially with students of virtual schools who come to the library to take exams.
  • Do you also use print/pc management software, like Envisionware or CASSIE? Any issues?
  • What is the standard load on your public workstations...MS office suite? What browsers?