Why can’t I use the LNMC computers for fill-in-the-blank?

A picture of a Mac Pro desktop with a large monitor, attached keyboard and mouse. There seems to be some misunderstanding about the purpose of the 12 Mac Pro computers up in the Lyons New Media Centre (LNMC).

People are getting asked by staff to vacate the computer whether they’re on Facebook or using Avenue to Learn for their Physics homework. The explanation remains the same each time: this is a media lab. We’ve been asked why. Here’s the short answer:

This is a new policy that came into effect as of September 1, 2012 due to a series of complaints from students that they have had difficulties accessing the machines when they have needed to work on multimedia of some description or another.

The longer version is this: We used to allow general use of the computers in LNMC, with the idea that anyone with a media-related project to work on had priority.

Unfortunately, this meant that people who weren’t using the computers for media-related projects would get on the computers early on in the day and not move, because finding a free computer on campus is hard (yes, we understand this is a huge issue). Before long, every single computer was being used for social media, Avenue to Learn, watching YouTube videos, watching DVDs from reserve for a course and just about anything else under the sun, exceptmedia creation. Why is this problematic? For two reasons:

  1. Although people using the machines for general use were usually pretty good about vacating a computer when asked so that someone who needed access to Premiere Pro or Photoshop could use it, those with media projects didn’t ask. They would walk out, then email us with complaints that all the computers were full. Some stated that they were outright intimidated to ask, or that they felt badly asking someone else to give up a computer for their project work. This isn’t fair, as those with media projects are our target audience. This is why we actively ask people not using the machines for their intended purpose to find a machine elsewhere.
  2. These 12 computers are the only computers on campus which have the media editing software that we offer, besides the Multimedia Studies lab, which is only available to Multimedia students. Anyone needing Photoshop can’t just find a computer on the second floor of Mills Library and start using Photoshop — it’s only available here in Lyons for most students.Compare this to Facebook or Avenue to Learn, both of which can be accessed from any computer that has an internet connection. Considering the University had nearly 29,000 students enrolled in the 2011/2012 Fall/Winter terms, all of whom may potentially be taking a course that has a multimedia component in it, 12 computers offering high-end, expensive media editing and creating software leaves these computers in high demand.

These Mac computers are also pretty high-end hardware, which means that using them simply to read lecture slides is kind of like trying to swat a fly with an SUV: overkill, to be blunt! Similarly, these reasons also explain why we do not allow anyone to use the desks our Mac Pros sit on as a place to just sit on their own laptops or as a place to eat their dinner.

If we allow these sorts of activities to continue, these desk spaces become awfully expensive laptop holders / dinner tables! We invite laptop users to make use of the soft seating in front of the video wall or at the far end of the Centre, where pull-down electrical outlets have been provided for just such usage, as well as the long laptop bar that runs along the windowed wall (there are plugs every few feet). There are also four booths with hanging monitors which have pull-down electrical outlets and connections to the monitors to be connected to laptops to provide better viewing real estate when working on group projects.

Lastly, to touch upon a comment we’ve heard a lot: but the computers aren’t in use right now, so I can’t see why I can’t use them for working on (insert non-media-project here). We get it. You see empty computers and think: what a waste! But we refer back to point #1 above again: if we allow everyone who isn’t making media to take up the computers, before long, the place is full again and those needing the software have no real recourse.

We have to keep the machines ready and available for those who need that software. Sometimes, we have classes make use of the space. Sometimes, we have media-related events in the LNMC’s main room. We are a media lab and our computers are for media creation, editing, teaching and learning only. We hope this has cleared up some questions! And please feel free to check out our policies page on our website and submit questions or concerns to Rhonda Moore, LNMC Manager.

~ Kelly Penfold, Library Media Specialist

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