Ever since I moved to Pittsburgh I’ve been a champion of the Carnegie Public Library. Maybe it’s because I live down the street from the newly re-designed and re-architected Squirrel Hill branch, or maybe because libraries are some of my favorite places. Today I think a little less of the CPL though because they’ve decided to restrict their wireless internet access.
When I first took my laptop to the library I was happy to find an open wireless network. No fuss — just free, library provided, tax-payer funded internet access. I thought this was a nice touch since they can only provide so many computers and internet access is now a core feature for libraries. Unfortunately they have now implemented a proxy server that all wireless traffic has to route through. This means that instead of booting up and “just working” you have to contact a librarian, get instructions, reconfigure your machine — then change the configuration again when you’re not at the library. While this is clearly a worse experience the larger problem is that it’s only a web proxy, which means that all other internet traffic is blocked. No chat, no email, no FTP, no VNC, nothing.
The list of applications that needs to access the internet besides web browsers is huge and growing. Email programs, dashboard widgets, and RSS readers are essential to me. Plus, for some reason Firefox doesn’t work with their system.
The proxy has been put in place so that wireless patrons can print to the library laser printers and access IP restricted resources. In the process of doing that somebody made a decision that access should be changed to web only. I’m guessing this was more of an IT whim than a well thought out executive decision. In an otherwise almost perfect library experience this is a blemish that makes it harder for me to use the library in the way I need to.
# March 05, 2006 07:16 PM