Tools

There are so many things to consider when buying library technology. Where are the best deals — the city, the county or the state? Perhaps cooperative negotiations are the best way to go for you. Then there’s the actual job of deployment and installation. You’ve got to plan ahead for that. Fortunately, we’ve provided a few tools to help you in this endeavor and make the whole process a bit easier.

TechAtlas: Technology Planning Options for Libraries

It’s impossible to predict the future, especially when dealing with technology. Having a good technology plan, however, will serve as a map for your journey. TechAtlas is a free online tool for library technology assessment and planning.

If your library receives e-rate funds, then you know that it’s necessary to have a current technology plan for your library. The plan you create in TechAtlas can be used to fulfill that requirement.

Tech Atlas includes many features from which a library can pick and choose. Potential uses include the following:

  • Track hardware and software with the automated inventory. If you use TechAtlas for only one thing, or if you are looking for a first step in using this powerful resource, then consider running the inventory tool. An automated script will run and gather detailed information about each computer, compiling that information in a web-based inventory that you can access from any computer. This means the information can be shared with anyone who helps you with your computer. It is a simple and fast process that provides you with an up-to-date inventory of the hardware and software in your library, allowing you to feel much more on top of the technology in the building. Knowing what you have now will help you feel prepared for planning and budgeting for tomorrow.
  • Survey your staff’s technology skills. How do you know if there are technology skills you should have or may benefit from having? The number of skills you can learn is large, so how do you pick and choose where to focus your energy and brainpower? The tools in TechAtlas can help you track staff skills and can also compare your library to other libraries. The staff skill section of TechAtlas is customizable, so you can add skills that are specific to your library. C
  • Create a technology plan. Does your library have a technology plan? If so, is it a meaningful document, or was it simply created to fulfill a requirement for a grant application? A well-done technology plan requires time and energy, but the end result is well worth it. Setting your goals and priorities and then reviewing them on an ongoing basis will mean the difference between feeling overwhelmed by technology and feeling like your community needs are being well-served. TechAtlas can help in this area. After answering questions and inputting the necessary data, you are able to print out a technology plan.
  • Track computer problems and issues. Event Tracker is a component of TechAtlas that can be used to log problems and other information about your library technology. In a library where multiple people are responsible for technology troubleshooting, Event Tracker can be a way to share information with one another about the computers in the library. It can also be useful in smaller libraries, where there is only one person responsible for fixing computers and solving technology problems. Looking back at logs over time can help you pinpoint problems. It can also serve as a reminder of previous fixes that worked. In addition, if there is staff turnover at the library, Event Tracker can help new staff people quickly review past technology problems and solutions.

Tips and Guidelines for Making Informed Computer Purchases

  • Do some research. Before you buy a new computer, be sure to read the consumer reviews and look at price comparisons. CNET is one place to find reviews. Consumer Reports magazine is another place to look. MySimon is a great place to do price comparisons.
  • Know the basics. A grasp of computer hardware and software fundamentals can help you make informed decisions. If thinking about hardware specifications is new to you, then you might begin by focusing on three essential things:
    • Processor speed. The faster the processor, the more quickly it can process computations.
    • RAM (Random Access Memory). More memory lets you run more applications at the same time without slowing down your computer.
    • Size of hard drive. The larger the hard disk, the more data you can store. The How Stuff Works Web site has easy-to-understand explanations.
  • Make your computer purchase decisions make sense for your patron computing environment. You should ask yourself: How will the library’s computer be used? How much software will be loaded on it? What sorts of applications will run on it?
  • Be sure to get any possible discounts. You may be able to get a lower price by purchasing your computers as part of a group or through an existing county or statewide contract. For software purchases, be sure to take advantage of donated and discounted software available to public libraries through TechSoup Stock.

Using Older Computers – Key Considerations

If your library needs to keep older computers and use them as long a possible, here are few points to keep in mind:

  • Computer upgrading: Ideally, all your computers will be able to run the same version of a currently supported operating system. This makes it easier to maintain the computers and use the latest features. To do this, you’ll need to upgrade your computer operating system and software. However, very old computers may not be upgradeable to the current version of Windows.
  • Compatibility issues: Moreover, after you upgrade, you may find that the other software applications and utilities that you installed previously may not be so completely compatible with the new version of Windows. To avoid this unfortunate outcome, you may want to consider leaving these computers as they are, and limiting their purpose to specific tasks. As an example, one library designated their older computers – Gates-granted computers which ran Windows NT – for use by children to play educational games. These computers were taken offline so that the children were not able to access the Internet.
  • Computer donations: Donated computers should be evaluated for their potential usefulness before accepting them; some older computers may be more trouble than they’re worth. It’s a good idea to have a policy in place that states that you will only accept computers capable of running the same software as the other computers in the library (e.g., Pentium IV processor, 512 GB RAM, 20 GB hard drive). That way, you can gracefully decline donations that won’t be useful.
  • Linux considerations: A few rural libraries have also made the foray into Linux, a free, open-source operating system. Some flavors of the Linux-based operating system are “lighter” and geared to run on fewer computing resources than Windows. This reduces the costs of buying operating system upgrades. So, this might be another way to extend the life of your computers.

Disk Protection Software Installation Tools and Techniques

For some libraries, the simple act of restarting the computers may be the most effective maintenance and troubleshooting technique…thanks to disk-protection software.

Disk-protection is a way to revert back to the way a computer was configured at a particular point in time. Ideally, you want to start off with a solid configuration that has all the elements to serve your patrons well. This is the configuration that disk-protection will revert back to when you restart your computer.

  • Take some time to plan and think about all the elements you want to have on these computers before installing disk-protection. These include:
    • Patron-use software such as office productivity software, games, or alternative browsers such as the Public Web Browser
    • Antivirus or anti-spyware software policies that you use to customize the look-and-feel of the computers
    • Accounts for patron use (e.g., you may want several different patron accounts — one for children, one for teens, one for adults, etc.)
    • Patron management and lock-down software such as the Fortres 101, CybraryN, or CASSIE
  • Set up your patron computer accordingly, so that changes to the computer will not stick. This brings up some issues that do not apply to a “normal” computer setup. For one thing, as mentioned previously in this section, patrons wishing to save work or downloads from the Internet should use their own media or online. If they save on a disk-protected computer, it will get wiped away when the computer restarts.

    Also, by nature, disk-protection makes it harder for you to change your patron computer's configuration. You must turn disk-protection off before you install new software or upgrade software. For example, if you want to upgrade Microsoft Office to the new version, you will have to turn disk-protection off before you can install it, then turn it back on once its installed.
  • If your patrons use a certain kind of software that needs to update configuration information as it is used, configure your setup to accommodate that. For example, a typing tutor program might include a feature that saves the progress of its students so when they return at a later date to do more exercises, the program will know where the student left off. If you don't configure the typing tutor software to save this progress data to an unprotected area, disk-protection will wipe out this information when you restart the computer. How disappointed your hard working typing students would be!
  • Along with planning, test the disk-protected setups to make sure things are working as intended, especially after you restart your computer. First, test the computers yourself. Once this is done, ask one or more of your patrons to sample the computer with the new features and setup. If the patrons identify problems, you can address them before installing and setting up the other patron computers. Patron Computer Software Comparison Chart The chart on the following pages compares some of the better-known titles that are currently in use in small libraries. They have been grouped by family, based on the most prominent patron computers’ management features. The pricing and support terms reflect discounts for public library licensing and 15 workstations (where applicable).

Patron Computer Software Comparison Chart

The chart on the following pages compares some of the better-known titles that are currently in use in small libraries. They have been grouped by family, based on the most prominent patron computers’ management features. The pricing and support terms reflect discounts for public library licensing and 15 workstations (where applicable).

TYPE OF SOFTWARESOFTWARE PUBLISHER AND TITLEAPPROXIMATE COSTINCLUDED SUPPORT, MAINTENANCE AND SOFTWARE UPGRADE TERMS
Patron Management offers session time and print management, workstation reservations, patron computer usage reportingLibrarica CASSIE
Supports: Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://www.librarica.com/features.html
$995 for 5 workstations
$1,990 for 10 workstations
$2,485 for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help documentation support (add additional years for 15% of licensing cost per year)
CybraryN Library Solutions1
Supports: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.cybraryn.com/Solutions/
$774.95 for 5 workstations
$1074.95 for 10 workstations
$2,519 for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help, documentation and remote assistance support (add additional years for $375, according to number of workstations
Userful DiscoverStation1,2,4
Supports: Linux-based thin-client w/ included hardware
Feature list: http://userful.com/products/library-ds
$1,740/year for 5 workstations
$3,480/year for 10 workstations
$5,220/year for 15 workstations
(all rates based on 3-year term agreement)
Phone, email, online help, documentation, and remote assistance support
Fortres Grand Time Limit Manager
Supports: Windows 2000, XP, 2003
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/tlm/tlm.htm
$125 for 5 workstations
$250 for 10 workstations
$195 for 25 workstations
Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support
Disk-Protection preserves a computer’s baseline configuration and restores it upon restarting or logoffFaronics Deep Freeze STD
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/deepfreeze.asp
$219 for 5 workstations
$236 for 10 workstations
$334.90 for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add additional years for $44, up to three years)
Faronics Deep Freeze Mac
Supports: Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/DFMac.asp
$330 for 5 workstation
$364 for 10 workstations
$516 for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add additional years for $68, up to three years)
 
Fortres Grand Clean Slate
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/cls/cls.htm
$295 for 5 workstations
$590 for 10 workstations
$335 for 15 workstations
Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support
Centurion Technologies CompuGuard CornerStone
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.centuriontech.com/products/compuguardcornerstone
$462 for 15 workstationsOne year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (additional years at 10% of license cost per year)
Centurion Technologies MacShield Universal
Supports: Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4
Feature list: http://www.centuriontech.com/products/macshielduniversal/
$453.75 for 15 workstationsOne year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (additional years at 10% of license cost per year)
Workstation Lock-Down restricts patron access to a limited number of functionsMicrosoft Windows SteadyState2,5
Supports: Windows XP
Feature list: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sharedaccess/default.mspx
Downloadable for freeOnline help, documentation, and discussion forum support.
Fortres Grand Fortres 101
Supports: Windows 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/f101/f101.htm
$295 for 5 workstations
$590 for 10 workstations
$335 for 15 workstations
Lifetime phone, email, online help, and documentation support
Faronics WINSelect3
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/Winselect.asp
$245 for 5 workstations
$490 for 5 workstations
$755 for 15 workstations
Through next version (typically two year lifecycle per version) phone, email, online help, and documentation support
Application Launch Restriction prevents patrons from launching unapproved applicationsFaronics Anti-executable standard
Supports: Windows 95,98,ME, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.faronics.com/html/AntiExec.asp
$179 for 5 workstations
$236 for 10 workstations
$398 for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support (add on up to three years for additional fees, according to number of workstations)
Beyond Logic Trust-No-Exe
Supports: Windows NT, 2000, XP
Feature list: http://www.beyondlogic.org/consulting/trust-no-exe/trust-no-exe.htm
Free downloadableOnline help, and documentation support
Web Browser Customization modifies the way Internet Explorer looks/locks down its functionalityTeamSoftware Solutions Public Web Browser
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://www.teamsoftwaresolutions.com/
$125 for one year, renewable site licenseEmail, pager, online help, and documentation and discussion forum support
Workstation Remote Control and Administration allows library staff to see/interact with the workstation desktop to make changes, troubleshoot, or assist a patronGoToMyPC
Supports: Windows 2000, XP, Vista
Feature list: https://www.gotomypc.com/en_US/personalFAB.tmpl?_sid=209346628%3AFE2219D...
$777/year for 5 workstations
$1554/year for 10 workstations
$2,025/year for 15 workstations
One year phone, email, online help, and documentation support
VNC
Supports: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Mac OS 9 and 10.x, Unix, Linux
Feature list: (various sites, e.g., http://www.realvnc.com/)
Free downloadOnline help, and documentation support
LogMeIn
Supports: Windows 98, 200,0, XP, 2003
Feature list: https://secure.logmein.com/go.asp?page=products_free
Free for LogMeIn Free versionPhone (leave message for call back), email, online help, and documentation support
Patron Privacy Data Cleanup can clean patron tracksCCleaner
Supports: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Feature list: http://ccleaner.com/features.aspx
Free downloadOnline help documentation and discussion forum support

A note about the listed costs: These are prices as reported by the respective vendors in April, 2007. Prices are subject to change, please contact vendor for current rates. In addition, you should always discuss your specific situation with the vendor to get the most appropriate package and pricing for your library.

Notes
1Includes some workstation lockdown features
2Includes disk-protection functionality
3Includes some patron management features
4Requires Linux/Unix
5Requires Windows XP Service Pack 2

Some General E-Rate Rules for Eligible Products and Services

If you apply for E-rate reimbursements, be sure to check the Eligible Services List at http://www.usac.org/sl/tools/eligible-services-list.aspx before you order products or services. Sometimes a particular hub or router is eligible, while a similar product, but a different make and model, is not. E-rate does not fund redundancies — for example, if you need only one server and buy the second server as a backup or “fallback,” E-rate will not fund it.

The Eligible Services List provides guidance regarding what products and services may be able to receive E-rate reimbursements. It is organized by category of service and revised and updated each year in advance of the application window.

Here are some general E-rate rules to consider by funding category.

  • Telecommunication — USAC funds various types of services. Examples: T-1, Centrex, Local and Long Distance Telephone Service, Cellular Service and Paging Service, but NOT end-user equipment, such as telephone sets.
  • Internet — USAC funds the basic conduit access to the Internet or services that are an integral component part of basic conduit access. Examples: T-1, DSL, DS-3, wireless service, email server, Web hosting services, but NOT content or design and development of the Web site.
  • Internal Connections — USAC funds components at the applicant site that are necessary to transport information to the school or library. Examples: Access points, routers, switches, hubs, wiring, PBXs and codecs, but NOT the end-user equipment, such as telephones (including IP telephones) or laptops.
  • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections — USAC funds basic maintenance of the internal connections to ensure the necessary and continued operation of eligible internal connection components at eligible locations. Examples: Repair and upkeep of eligible hardware, wire and cable maintenance, but NOT the end-user support, such as a student calling a help-disk for technical assistance.
  • LANs and WANs — A LAN is considered Internal Connections and is funded beginning with the highest poverty level areas. WAN is not considered Internal Connections because it runs from the demarcation point at school or library to a point outside.
  • WAN network facilities may only be leased, not owned, by applicants. See the WAN Fact Sheet for detailed information at http://www.universalservice.org/sl/applicants/step06/wide-area-network-f...

Maintenance Tasks/Costs: Computers WITH Lock-Down and Disk-Protection Software

Items that must be completed on a regular basis to maintain computers that ARE locked down and disk-protected.
* Monthly time does not include hours required on a quarterly and annual basis.

 TASK SCHEDULE
AREAWEEKLYMONTHLYQUARTERLYANNUALLYMONTHLY TIME REQUIRED (PER COMPUTER)OUTSIDE CONSULTANT @ $50 PER HR.
Security
  • Update virus definitions
  • Update spyware definitions
  • 15 min.
  • Change system passwords.
  • Visually inspect computers for signs of tampering.
  • 30 min.
  • Check for unneeded or unused programs and consider uninstalling them.
  • 15 min.
  • Renew antivirus software subscription.
  • 1 hr.
1 hr. 30 min.$75.00
Computer  
  • Check for the latest Service Packs/ Updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer.
  • Clean the mouse so it is free of dust and grime.
  • Make sure all the plugs are properly connected.
  • 1 hr.
  • Clean the screens with appropriate screen-cleaning cloth/solution.
  • Check printers. Print a test page to ensure printers are producing clean copies, and toner cartridges are full.
  • Clean the CD-ROM drive.
  • Check supplies (e.g., paper, cartridges, disks, etc.) and order as needed.
  • 30 min.
  • Check cables for crimps, breaks, wear and tear.
  • Clean inside PC.
  • Update drivers as needed for printers, modems, sound cards, video cards, and other devices.
  • 1 hr.
1 hr.$50.00
Internet 
  • Identify policy and procedure issues
  • 15 min.
  15 min.$12.50
Patrons 
  • Restock:
  • Computer use policies and procedures
  • Instructional handouts for computer and Internet use
  • 15 min.
  • Review and update as needed:
  • Computer use policies and procedures
  • Patron instructional materials
  • 30 min.
  • Review and update as needed:
  • Library policies
  • Patron instructional materials
  • 8 hrs.
15 min.$12.50
TOTAL MONTHLY PER COMPUTER (after installation)3 hours$150.00
Lock-down and disk-protection software installOne time installation: 6 hours for first computer, 2 hours for each additional computer (not counted in total above)

Approx. $45 - $90 for first computer, $30 for each additional computer

Note: if you have Windows XP, you can use the free Windows SteadyState for locking down and disk-protection.

Maintenance Tasks/Costs: Computers WITHOUT Lock-Down and Disk-Protection Software

Items that must be completed on a regular basis to maintain computers that are NOT locked down and do NOT have disk-protection.
* Monthly time does not include hours required on a quarterly and annual basis.

 TASK SCHEDULE
AREAWEEKLYMONTHLYQUARTERLYANNUALLYMONTHLY TIME REQUIRED (PER COMPUTER)OUTSIDE CONSULTANT @ $50 PER HR.
Security
  • Update virus definitions, and run a full antivirus system scan.
  • Update spyware definitions, and run a full anti-spyware system scan
  • 1 hr.
  • Change system passwords.
  • Visually inspect computers for signs of tampering.
  • 30 min.
  • Check for unneeded or unused applications and consider uninstalling them.
  • 15 min.
  • Renew antivirus software subscription.
  • 1 hr.
4.5 hrs.$225.00
Computer
  • Run “ScanDisk” to check hard drive for errors.
  • Run “Defrag” to defragment files.
  • Run “Disk Cleanup” to delete Temporary Internet files, Temporary Files, and Recycle Bin.
  • Troubleshooting and fixing problems on computers
  • 2 hrs.
  • Check for the latest Service Packs/Updates for Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer.
  • Clean the mouse so it is free of dust and grime.
  • Make sure all the plugs are properly connected.
  • 1 hr.
  • Clean the screens with appropriate screen-cleaning cloth/solution.
  • Check printers. Print a test page to ensure printers are producing clean copies, and toner cartridges are full.
  • Clean the CD-ROM drive.
  • Check supplies (e.g., paper, cartridges, disks, etc.) and order as needed.
  • 30 min.
  • Check cables for crimps, breaks, wear and tear.
  • Clean inside PC.
  • Update drivers as needed for printers, modems, sound cards, video cards, and other devices.
  • 1 hr.
9 hrs.$450.00
Internet
  • Clear browser history
  • Delete cookies
  • 15 min.
  • Identify policy and procedure issues
  • 1 hr.
  2 hrs.$100.00
Patrons 
  • Restock:
  • Computer use policies and procedures
  • Instructional handouts for computer and Internet use
  • 30 min.
  • Review and update as needed:
  • Computer use policies and procedures
  • Patron instructional materials
  • 8 hrs.
  • Review and update as needed:
  • Library policies
  • Patron instructional materials
  • 32 hrs.
30 min.$25.00
   TOTAL MONTHLY PER COMPUTER16 hrs.$800.00

Ten Steps to Successfully Working with Vendors

STEPACTIONTO LEARN MORE
1Determine if this is the right time to make this purchase.The NPower guide mentioned previously offers five criteria for deciding if you’re ready for a particular technology project. See the “Assessing Feasibility” section.
2If the project involves considerable time and labor, decide if you should outsource it. In other words, do you need a vendor…or should you keep the project in-house?Summit Collaborative offers guidance for answering this question in its article Determining Whether to Outsource.
3Figure out your organization’s needs. What are you trying to change in your organization by buying this product or service? What are the outcomes you’re trying to achieve?The article What Do You Need from a Provider? can help you define your needs up- front. If you create a formal requirements document (aka a needs assessment) that defines your required and desired outcomes, you can use this as the basis of your RFP and your vendor evaluation matrix.
4Determine if you should write an RFP. Call your city attorney, IT department or purchasing agency and ask for the policy on RFPs. Frequently, RFPs are required above a certain dollar amount (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000).The article The RFP Process: An Overview explains the difference between an RFP (request for proposal), an RFI (request for information) and an RFQ (request for quotation), and provides guidelines to help you decide between a formal and an informal RFP process. Remember, by buying off a state contract, you can often satisfy local requirements and avoid the tedious process of writing your own RFP. See the following “State Contracts” section for more information.
 
5Become an RFP pro. There are a number of excellent resources that can help you get started.
The articles Writing an RFP and The RFP: Writing One and Responding to One provide helpful RFP checklists to get you started. Beyond the Template: Writing an RFP That Works offers additional advice on making your RFP stand out from the crowd.
6Research possible vendors.TechSoup's Nine Tips for Navigating the RFP Research Phase recommends places to turn to when you’re researching a vendor’s track record, while TechRepublic's Follow These Guides on the Road to a Valuable Vendor Relationship emphasizes the importance of checking a vendor’s references.
7Develop vendor selection criteria (see the following “Vendor Selection Criteria Specific to Libraries” section).
8Negotiate and write the contract. Work with an individual or department in your organization that is the expert in contract rules and regulations. Turn to them first so that you abide by the relevant laws and policies. However, for large, complex, important projects, make sure you and your colleagues are involved in drawing up the contract.
9Manage your vendor relationships. You can’t just sign a contract and then ignore your vendor.For tips on how to keep that relationship running smoothly, read Marc and Beth’s article on Techsoup.
10Evaluate your vendor relationships. Examine the market and your library’s needs on a regular basis. The best vendor last year won’t necessarily be the best vendor this year. On the flip side, a long-term vendor relationship can pay off in service and perks. Also, a well-written contract often includes benchmarks that you can use later to evaluate the vendor’s performance. 

How to Buy Cooperatively Quick Reference

Buy off state contracts. In most states, the government has negotiated deals with a variety of vendors, obtaining steep discounts that local government agencies can take advantage of. You can buy hardware, software, supplies, even cars off state master contracts. For non-specialized hardware and software, the prices on the master contract frequently beat the prices you can negotiate for yourself. However, you probably won’t find highly specialized items, such as print management software or ILS software. Not every state has this great arrangement, but most do. Also, the details vary widely from state to state. If you don't know anything about state contracts and you want to learn more, get in touch with your state library or state procurement office, or do a Google search for “state contract" and your state initial.

Buy off the city or county contract. In some cases, you’ll be partnering with other municipal agencies, whether you want to or not. If the library is under the legal authority of the town government and local policy dictates that everyone has to buy computers through the IT department, that’s what you’ll do. However, if your library is administered independently, it could still be worthwhile to meet with the town’s IT folks. They might be able to negotiate a better deal for you than you can get on your own, or they might have some good advice about bargaining with vendors.

Let a library cooperative negotiate for you. In many areas, the state library or a statewide library cooperative negotiates steep discounts for members and constituents. Some of these cooperatives only negotiate the licensing of online databases from vendors such as Proquest and Thomson-­Gale. Others focus on a wider range of library-­specific products, such as books, magazines, furniture, preservation materials, barcode scanners, etc. In other words, these library cooperatives often complement the work done by state government purchasing agencies (see the first bullet item), though there might be some overlap. You’re more likely to find desktop computers, servers and other commodity technology on the state contracts. The Colorado Library Consortium and Minitex are two examples of consortia that negotiate on behalf of member libraries.

OCLC regional service providers. If your library system or your state library has paid for membership in an OCLC regional consortium, you’re probably eligible for discounts on library-­ related supplies and services. Of course, these organizations begin by negotiating deals with OCLC itself, but they also negotiate with other vendors. For the most, part the regional service providers represent multiple states. BCR, Amigos and Solinet are prominent examples. Wikipedia has a full list.

Set up your own cooperative purchasing arrangement with other libraries in your area, local colleges, K­12 schools or area non­profits. It can be time­-consuming to create a consortium, so ask yourself if the long­-term benefits outweigh the initial effort. Also, talk to lawyers and accountants who know the local laws and regulations. They can probably guide you to templates that you can use as a basis for your purchasing agreements. For more information on using local partnerships to buy broadband and other telecommunication services, see Internet Access and ISPs.

How to Examine a Lease Agreement

Do your homework and read the terms of the lease carefully before signing. The following are some questions you’ll want to consider:

  1. What happens at the end of the lease? In the past, some leasing companies required that you return to them the exact same machine that they sent you originally, and they checked the serial number to make certain. However, more and more, companies are willing to be flexible and accept a computer that’s comparable in most respects to the one they loaned you.
  2. Do you have a good asset­-tracking and management system? Even though companies are becoming more patient and understanding about end-of-lease arrangements, you still have to return something to them in fairly good condition. If you constantly have trouble tracking and locating your equipment, you should buy rather than lease.
  3. Are there other end-­of-­lease terms? Can you buy the equipment and at what price? How strict will they be about the condition of the computers? Don’t be afraid to push back if the leasing company gives you trouble, because you may be negotiating a new lease at the same time you’re returning the old equipment.
  4. Who is responsible for maintenance and repair? While vendors will probably replace defective parts during the period of the lease, they usually don’t repair damage done by patrons, whether accidental or intentional.
  5. Does the lease lock you into any financial issues downstream? If possible, show the lease to your accountant, your director, your CFO or whoever it is that balances your books. The structure of the lease could have unforeseen consequences on your budgets and your cash flow, so you want to get their approval if possible.
  6. Does the leasing company require an up-­front down payment, security deposit, proof of insurance or some other hedge against losses on their part? Most likely, as a government agency, you won’t have to bother with this stipulation, but check the leasing agreement to make sure.

Buying Hardware Checklist

ACTIONKEY CONSIDERATIONS
Pay attention to your users.
  • What are they actually doing with their computers?
  • What software do staff and patrons use most often?
In most libraries, staff and patrons aren’t using resource-intensive applications, so you don’t need the latest, greatest, fastest computers. However, if you’re buying machines for teen gaming or video editing, you may need something more robust.
Think about obsolescence.
  • You don’t need to pay a premium for the speediest PCs, but if you buy bargain-basement equipment, will it cost you more in the long run?
Remember, every few years, Microsoft releases a new, resource-intensive operating system (e.g., Windows Vista) and then stops supporting one of its older operating systems. So it’s important to strike the right balance. For a quick take on buying desktop machines, see A Simple Guide to Buying Computers. If you want a more detailed discussion, read Desktop Computers for Your Business.
For labs/public computing environments, consider business-model computers rather than consumer computers.Business-grade machines tend to be more durable.
Ask some questions about the vendors on your shortlist.
  • How long have they been in business? How stable are they financially?
  • What’s the average failure rate and/or return rate on their equipment?
It’s often hard to get a reliable answer to this last question, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Find out if the company offers imaging and installation services.
  • Will they install the operating system and the core software?
  • Will they install customized software and peripheral devices?
  • Will they come to your library and put all the equipment together?
All of these services cost extra money, but they’re worth considering if your IT department is short-staffed. For more information, see Deploying New Computers and Disk-Cloning in Libraries.
Ask about vendor support during installation.If you’ll be installing the equipment yourself, find out what kind of support the vendor is willing to offer during installation.
Ask about vendor support after installation.
  • What’s their initial response time to a tech support call?
  • What’s the time to resolution (e.g., the time between your initial call and the time the problem is fixed)?
  • Which problems will they help you with?
For more information, see the following section on warranties and service plans.
Determine whether you should do business with the manufacturer or with a hardware reseller.A reseller with multiple manufacturer relationships can sometimes simplify your life by serving as a single point of contact, handling multiple purchases on your behalf and presenting you with a consolidated bill. A reseller might also be closer to you geographically and better able to offer personalized service. On the other hand, resellers will charge you extra for this added value. For details, read Where to Buy a PC and What Is a Value-Added Reseller.
Check out the vendor’s disposal policy.
  • Can you return out-of-date equipment to the vendor, knowing it will be properly disposed of?
  • What do they charge for this service?
For more information, see Getting Rid of Old Computers Responsibly.

Buying Software Checklist

ACTIONKEY CONSIDERATIONS
Do some research and testing. If possible, download a trial software application on a machine that closely matches the typical library computer, so you can see if it’s compatible with your existing hardware and software. For major software purchases, ask librarians and patrons from different departments and backgrounds to help with testing.
Look at TechSoup Stock to see if you qualify for discounted software.TechSoup only charges an administration fee, so you’re only paying between 5 and 20 percent of the retail price. All public libraries in the U.S. and Canada qualify for this program, and almost all Microsoft titles are included.
Pay attention to the software license agreement (sometimes known as the End-User License Agreement or EULA).Some license agreements will actually tell you that by using the software, you’ve agreed to install spyware on your computer. While this is more of a problem with free software, it’s always a good idea to run through the license agreement. Since most of us don’t have time to wade through each EULA, check out EULAlyzer, a utility that examines each agreement for key words and phrases.
For major pieces of software, such as an ILS system, seek expert advice before signing a contract or license agreement.You’re tying your library into this agreement for years to come, and since this is such a large purchase, you may have more leverage to renegotiate some of the terms. Check out How to Make Software Contract Negotiations Work for Your Business and Reviewing Software License Agreements for more suggestions.
Know your vendor.10 Things You Should Ask Before Buying Software has some questions you can pose to your vendor.
If you’re buying a large quantity of a particular software title, investigate volume licenses and site licenses. You can often receive discounts for this type of bulk purchase, and software that comes with a site license is generally easier to install and administer. Usually, volume discounts start somewhere between three and ten copies of an application, but it varies from vendor to vendor. Save Money with Volume Software Licensing has more information. Also take a look at Microsoft’s documentation on volume license keys.
If you have a system for tracking your license agreements and installation keys, be sure to input the information about your new purchase.This is discussed in more detail in Asset Management.
Keep your IT department in the loop from the beginning.They’ll be the ones supporting the software and will probably play a role in training staff. They can also help you test the software.
Centralize software purchases as much as possible to avoid the proliferation of different applications that serve the same purpose and different versions of the same application.For more information, see our section on Standardizing Your IT Infrastructure.

Eight Smart Tips for Standardizing Your Equipment

  • Buy in quantity. Dell, HP and other vendors change their models constantly, meaning that the computer you buy this week may be different from the one you bought last week, even if the model number is exactly the same. It may have a different network card, a different hard drive or even a different motherboard. If you space your purchases out over the year, each batch of machines will be a little different from the others. You can mitigate this somewhat by working with your sales representative and buying business­-class computers (see the next bullet), but it’s still worth it to consolidate your purchases.
  • Buy business­-class computers. When you’re buying new computers, consider business over home models. Manufacturers change the components in their business machines much less frequently, and they often will guarantee configuration support for a certain period of time (usually six months).
  • Plan ahead. If you speak with a broad cross­-section of your colleagues and supervisors when you’re planning your budget for the year, you’ll know roughly how many new computers you’ll need and what other types of technology you’ll be buying, making it easier to standardize your equipment.
  • Make technology inventories and track your assets. If you know how many computers you have and how old they are, you’ll know roughly how many you need to replace in the upcoming year. Also, you can identify the one­-off, non­standard pieces of hardware and software in your library and then get rid of them as soon as possible.
  • Make purchases centrally. Although all staff should have some input into your purchasing plans, don’t let every department do its own buying unless they’re buying off of a predefined list of approved items. Individual purchasing can not only lead to hardware and software incompatibility, but it can also cause confusion on the accounting side as you try to sort through and reconcile bills from multiple vendors.
  • Accept donations selectively. If you accept every hardware donation that shows up on your doorstep, you’ll eventually have an unmanageable patchwork of computing equipment. One way to prevent this is to create a written policy specifying which donations you will and won’t accept. This policy can help you politely decline gifts that don’t fit with the mission and technology plan of your organization, and direct unwanted donations to qualified computer refurbishers and recyclers, where they will be updated or disposed of responsibly. Unsure about when to accept or decline the offer of new equipment? See TechSoup’s article Six Tips for Accepting (and Refusing!) Donated Equipment.
  • Adopt standardization policies. Your policies should reflect your decisions with regard to centralization and standardization. A simple policy entitled “Supported Hardware and Software” is a good start, but your IT purchasing policy, and your computer acceptable use policy should also reflect your approach to these questions.
  • Use systems management software suites. Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (available on TechSoup Stock), Novell ZENworks and several dozen other software packages can help your IT department automate routine tasks and control the configuration of end-user machines. Be aware, though, that these programs are often expensive, complex and difficult to implement. Wikipedia has a list of systems management software and a short definition of this type of software. Also if your organization has a Windows domain controller (using Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008, both available on TechSoup), you can use Active Directory and Group Policy to control the configuration of your desktop PCs. However, you won’t have all the options and features that you would get with most systems management systems.

Guidelines for Disk-Cloning

What to Look for in a Cloning Solution

  • Imaging assistance: Should you do the imaging yourself or pay a third party? Computer manufacturers, resellers and other companies are happy to clone your computers for a price. The larger your order, the more likely you can benefit from this type of arrangement. Cloning 100 or 200 computers in your library can put a serious strain on your network and your IT department staffers.
  • Maximum limits: What’s the maximum number of computers that the software can handle simultaneously?
  • Efficiencies: How does the cloning software react to differences in hardware components? If you have two batches of PCs with similar components, you may be able to clone both with a single image. This can save you time and disk space. Also, can you restore individual files from your disk image without restoring the entire disk? In other words, can you browse the image as though it were a file system and pull out a single file or a handful of files? With the current versions of most cloning programs, you can do this.
  • Software capabilities: Will the software perform incremental updates? In this sense, cloning software is becoming more and more like backup software. It scans your source computer for recent changes and incorporates them into the master image without forcing you to shut down or reboot. Also, creating a full image can really hog your library’s network and computing resources. These small, incremental updates are much more efficient.

What to Consider When Implementing a Cloning Solution

  • Hardware purchases planning: For cloning to work effectively, you need to have a minimum number of different hardware models. If you buy a few computers here and there, you’ll wind up with a patchwork environment, and you’ll have to manage dozens of different disk images. More is not better in this case. For more on this topic, check out our coverage of Standardizing Your IT Infrastructure.
  • Master disk images planning: Who creates the images? Who decides what software to include and how to configure that software? Remember, these disk images may be deployed to dozens of staff computers or public computers, so the affected parties should have a voice in the development of the image.
  • Source image preparation: Microsoft Windows operating systems come with a utility called Sysprep that strips out all unique, specific information (e.g., computer name and security identifier) from your source hard drive and gets it ready for cloning. Nlite is an open­-source program that lets you strip out Windows Media Player, Outlook Express and other add­-on features from Windows XP (but not Vista). These preparation utilities are often used in concert with post­-cloning tools such as, Setup Manager and Ghostwalker. (See "Tweaking and customizating" for more details on these tools).
  • Image deployment: You can always perform a direct disk-­to­-disk copy of an image. In other words, your source and destination hard drives are connected to the same computer, or they’re connected via a network. The transfer is direct, without any intermediate steps. However, many librarians and systems administrators create a “master image” and then deploy from that. The master image is usually stored on a removable hard drive or a network drive (see "Testing"). When you have a large number of computers to image, you should consider deploying the image across the network. Using a technology known as multicasting, most disk­-cloning programs can image dozens of computers at the same time. Multicasting may slow your network down somewhat (do it after hours or during non-­peak hours), but it was designed specifically to send lots of information to lots of computers with the least possible overhead and bandwidth use. It won’t choke your network as long as your network infrastructure is relatively up­-to-­date. Also, if you’ll be cloning and multicasting on a regular basis, you should consider dedicating a server to the process.
  • Testing: If you’re cloning lots of computers, image one or two and examine them carefully before deploying to your entire library. Check that your image is reliable and uncorrupted. Also, look again to make sure that you haven’t forgotten an important setting or an important piece of software.
  • Tweaking and customizing: Your computers might be 99 percent identical, but that last 1 percent is still important. After you’ve cloned your PCs, you need to change the name of each one to avoid conflicts on the network. If your computers use static IP addresses (increasingly rare), you should assign these manually to each machine after they’re imaged. In a Windows domain environment, you also need to assign a special identifier (called a SID) to each machine. Often, your cloning software will have a tool that can handle this automatically (e.g., Ghostwalker or Setup Manager).
  • Image storage and management: With most cloning software, you can save your images to a local hard drive, a network drive, a tape backup, CDs or DVDs. Avoid CDs and DVDs if you can. Since most images won’t fit on a single CD or DVD, you’ll have to span your image across multiple disks. However, once you’ve saved your master drive to a local hard drive or a network drive, you can use DVDs to create backups of these images.

Deploying New Computers — What to Ask and Why

WHAT TO ASK……AND WHY
Who will prepare and deploy your computers?In most libraries, the in-house IT staff deploys the computers, but if your IT department is understaffed, you can always hire a third party to help you. The computer manufacturer or reseller can handle part or all of the preparation. Finally, to a limited degree, library staff can assist if they’re savvy enough.
How will you install the operating system and the core software?Disk-cloning is the easiest way to do this when you’re dealing with more than a handful of computers.
Do you need to install any special software or make other tweaks?Disk-cloning programs will help deploy a core, standard configuration. However, some librarians work with special applications. For instance, one person needs accounting software, while another needs graphic design software. Also, certain settings are unique to each computer (e.g., computer name, IP address, SID and mapped network drives).
Is there any special hardware that you need to install and deliver along with the computer itself?For example, circulation computers often need barcode readers and receipt printers, and some users need their own local printer or scanner.
Do you need to migrate data from the old computer to the new computer?In the best of all possible worlds, library staff save their files to a server, and the IT department backs it up on a regular basis. However, some users insist on saving their data to the desktop or the local hard drive. Before you swap computers, make sure the user has backed up all his or her data to a secure location.
When will you deploy the new computers?Timing is especially important if you’re replacing computers for an entire department or library branch. For larger installations, you should ask the IT department to do their work at night or on the weekend.
Did you get what you paid for?Consider spot-checking your new computers to make sure you received the components and software that you actually ordered. Run TechAtlas’ inventory tool or Belarc Advisor to see how much memory and hard disk space your computer has. Did you receive the processors, network cards and graphics cards that you requested? Are any programs missing?
Should you document all the decisions you’ve made previously?Deploying new computers is a complex process. Even if you’re the only one involved, it can be difficult to remember all the steps. If you’re working with multiple staff members and/or multiple organizations, you need to write it all down. Be especially careful to note what software and hardware you’ve included with each new computer. Though you can use a word-processing document or spreadsheet for this, you should also consider some sort of asset tracking software.