Ask An Agent: How Do You Handle Teen Computer Usage?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: I’d be interested in hearing about how other libraries handle teen usage of library computers. How much time do you allow teens on the library computers? Can they extend their time? Are usage times different for children, teen, and adult patrons? Are there different time allotments for school days, weekends, summer vacation, etc.?

Elizabeth (Commerce Township Community Library) says:

My library uses Envisionware for computer time management.  We have seven computers in our teen area that are reserved for ages 18 and under–Envisionware does the age verification through the patron’s library card.  Teens with library cards can just sit down and log in.  Teens without library cards can request a reservation at the information desk.  If a teen has a library card or a reservation, they start with one hour and, if no one is waiting for a computer, Envisionware gives them the option to extend their time at the end of the hour for up to six hours per day.  If people are waiting for computers (which isn’t usually the case), they can make reservations at the information desk, and the person who has been using the computer the longest is not given the option to extend their time.

Jenni (South San Francisco Public Library) says:

All of our patron cards are set to two hours’ use on the computer per day, but I tell all my patrons – young and old – that if they are working on a project or paper, we can extend that time as long as no one is waiting to use the computer. Many of the students use this option to type up papers or projects for school; they just come to the front desk before their time is up and we renew the time for them.  We don’t change the time allotments based on the day or season; it’s two hours a day per patron all year long.

Kari (Virginia Beach Public Library) says:

Our computer usage is the same for all ages.  Our public computers require a PIN to get on and this PIN is only given to patrons under 18 when we have permission from their parents or if their parents give them the PIN when they sign up for the card.  This puts the responsibility on the parents rather than requiring the staff to monitor usage.  If a patron is working on something such as a test, project or job applications, we will sometimes extend their time.  We only do this if we know that they have been working hard to complete the task within the allotted 2 hours and were still unable to complete it.  We have also given students extra time for a certain number of days, if they are working on an involved project, but this is done very rarely.  My dream is for the teen area to have dedicated laptops for check out that the teens can use for 1 hour increments to complete homework assignments, etc.

Natalie (Farmingdale Public Library) says:

We only have three computers in my teen room. The teens sign up for one hour only. If no one else wants a computer, they are allowed to stay on longer. The teen room is open only to teens after school, weekends, holidays, and weekends. There are signs with the hours in two places to avoid any confusion.

Nikki (Cleveland Bradley County Public Library) says:

We do have 8 computers reserved for teen use in the YA area and 10 computers for the use of children (and parents accompanied by a child) in the children’s library plus 2 iPads and 2 AWE touch screens. There are 37 other public access computers for adult patrons throughout the library (though I still have to shoo them out of the YA area frequently… but that’s another issue). We also have three computer stations in closed testing rooms for people who are getting exams proctored, doing online education, etc. that do not have time limits but do have to be reserved ahead of time and a 12 computer classroom with projector that can be reserved for large groups when it isn’t in use for library  technology classes. Because we use a session management program called TimeIT that manages printing, library card validation, and all that jazz we have standard use times throughout the library – Monday through Saturday, patrons can have two sessions per day and each session lasts up to two hours. If they log off early, the remaining time disappears and can’t be saved up for a rainy day.  On Sunday, we have very abbreviated hours so the limit is 45 minutes. The only difference between the children’s computers and the rest of the library is the use of KidZui – a kid-safe browser – and that they have educational games preloaded. If more time is required for a special project or homework, we can add time but the two-hour limit is in effect year round. I would love to be able to offer more time to teens in the summer, but it just isn’t possible because the demand is so increased. 


Paige (Lethbridge Public Library) says:

We use reservation management software for our public computer use at my library.  All patrons with library cards (kids through seniors) are allowed 120 minutes per day.  The default booking for our computers is 1 hour; if there isn’t a huge demand when they begin their session, they can request to use all 2 hours at once.  Our default timing is the same across the board, no matter which type of patron is using the computers, or what time of day – no difference for teens.  If it’s a slow day on the computers, we have no problem extending  teen’s session for as long as they’re in the library.  If it’s busy, they’re limited to their officially allotted time.

We also have “quick use” computers throughout the library, which allow 20 minutes of quick internet access.  A card is not required for these computer terminals; people can log in with their name, or whatever other word they choose.  This allows for easy access for people who don’t have library cards, or for those who don’t want to wait to sign on to a full hour-long session.  I’ve noticed that the teens in my branch will bounce between quick-use terminals over a whole lunch hour.  No big deal, as there isn’t often anyone else waiting to use those computers at that time.

Thanks to our volunteer agents for the awesome answers. If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d liked to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.


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