Cleveland Public Library, Ohio
In July 2012, the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) launched MyCloud, providing our patrons with a better more personalized computing experience. Through a laptop-like thin client, users can access a high-performance, customizable virtual desktop dedicated to that individual, giving that person an experience comparable to having their very own computer.
Patrons using library computers must cope with and work around a wall of “no’s” and “cannot’s.” No, you cannot save files on the computer. No, you cannot bookmark. No, you cannot set preferences. Patrons struggle to save their files to flash drives before their session’s time out. After each use the computer is wiped clean for the next user. Upon every return trip, the user starts from scratch. When the experience of the person who relies on technology at the public library is so vastly different than the experience of the person who owns a computer, then the digital divide remains, albeit in a different context. How can the public library provide its computer users with an experience that approximates one that comes with ownership? Why shouldn’t the users of library computers be able to come in to the library, open a computer and find their desktop and all of their files, bookmarks, and preferences just as they left them at their last visit? These are the questions and challenges we sought to answer with the creation of MyCloud. Now the days of saving files on USB flash drive are over as library users are able to freely access their own computing world anywhere in the Library, just as if they were using their own laptop or desktop computers.
Fighting community deficits is a strategic priority for CPL and we strive to level the playing field for everyone in our community. One of many free services that CPL offers, MyCloud gives patrons the power to create their own computing world, just as if they were using their own laptop or desktop computers. As part of its larger Downtown Destination Campaign, CPL is transforming its Main Library to improve the overall user experience with several phases of development underway. The first phase was completed last year with the opening of “Tech Central,” where patrons and visitors can find all of the library’s technology in one location. Located here are 90 computer workstations that include PCs, Macs, and Linux operating systems. Patrons can also check out tablets, eBook readers, and other technology from Tech Central’s Tech Toolbox. Patrons access MyCloud through a desktop-like devices called “thin clients,” which can be checked out of Tech Central and taken anywhere within the Main Library’s two buildings or outdoor reading garden. When the user logs on to MyCloud, all of their bookmarks and preferences are as they left them and their files are stored securely in CPL’s private cloud, accessible only by the user. Patrons’ MyCloud virtual desktops also allow them to install and use powerful software applications, such as graphics editing and business management applications. The personalized computing experience was built in partnership with Citrix and HP, using Citrix's XenDesktop technology and HP's converged infrastructure resulting in a platform capable of supporting thousands of dedicated virtual desktops.
MyCloud is offered at our Main Library downtown and at two of our neighborhood branches. We have had 75 people complete the orientation that is required to use the service. Of those, five are daily users, primarily for recreational browsing. Between 10 to 15 people have not logged in again since creating their password. The remaining 60 or so either log in regularly or only needed MyCloud for a specific purpose. For example, one patron wanted to download a program to obtain his real estate license. This would not have been possible on a public computer, but it was with MyCloud. Nine months in, the number of users is lower than we had expected. We learned that people found the orientation process to be too cumbersome. Originally designed to help users understand their responsibilities and to set up their user account, orientations were scheduled on certain days of the week at specific times. Orientation remains a prerequisite to checking out the MyCloud thin clients; however, sessions are now offered by appointment, making it more accommodating to patrons’ schedules. We will continue to market MyCloud to our patrons and work to expand it to all of our 27 neighborhood branches. As a progressive 21st century library, we are committed to providing equitable access to a vast range of information and services. For those in our community who cannot afford their own computer, MyCloud provides an experience that is the next best thing.