Bib Essay Unit 3 Hardware Issues
Katy Armstrong and Nicole Cignoli
June 11 -16, 2007
Books are a technology, and writing is also a technology, and every technology has a limited lifespan. Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute
Staying ahead of hardware needs proves challenging in today's world of rapidly changing applications and computer performance. In order to enhance the library experience, libraries weigh four basic components when expanding or upgrading: input, processing, storage, and output. Input hardware devices translate data into a binary code language the computer can process. These are the keyboard, pointing devices, and source data-entry devices. The computer stores that information temporarily (primary storage) or permanently (secondary storage). Once processed, information is converted by output hardware into a human-useable form. (Williams & Sawyer) Consideration to equipment compatibility, durability, and longevity influence hardware purchase decisions within budgetary constraints.
The keyboard was the first input device for the computer quickly followed by the mouse. The keyboard became smaller, faster (with its own memory and processor), and wireless. The mouse lost its tail and stylus pens and touch screens are quickly replacing it. Other input devices are scanners, imaging systems, bar code readers, mark and character recognition devices (MICR, OMR, OCR), and fax. Multifunction peripherals (MFPs) combine the scanner, fax, and the digital camera docking station into one user-friendly device. (DeStefanis) And with Microsoft’s recently released Surface, visual recognition input has arrived.
As with any equipment in a library, librarians are required to understand how to use it, how to fix it and or how to maintain the service contract then be a resource to their patrons. The more-user friendly, the more often it will be used justifying the expense. Although Surface’s cost prohibits it coming to a library soon, it is thought that both younger and aging populations will persuade libraries to purchase hardware that shortens user-input interface replacing the mouse and keyboard with touch screens or visual/biometric recognition devices.
The speed at which a computer translates input into output is the processing time. The processor chip, primary storage capability (memory chip), and power source determines the speed of the process. All three connect to the motherboard that connects to input and hardware devices. The more powerfully designed processor chip and memory chips (RAM) the more quickly the process and the more expensive a system. Technological advances occur so quickly that operating budgets cannot keep up. The objective is to purchase systems with a motherboard that has enough expansion slots to increase the computer’s capabilities. Expansion cards are small, circuit boards that plug into an expansion slot and can add hardware for sound or video. In addition, replacing the memory chip with more memory can extend the computer's usefulness. Both are relatively inexpensive solutions versus purchasing a new computer. If the processing unit has reached it expansion capability and a new unit is required, it is possible to purchase the computer only and use existing input and output hardware to remain within budget. Careful research prior to purchase is necessary to ensure the newer product is compatible with the current machines and applications.(Back to the top)
What does digital storage mean for libraries and their objectives? To review the mission of libraries we can use the Acronym from Alan Pratt of the University of Arizona, CPOD. These are the objectives of a library: Collect, Preserve, Organize and Disseminate information.
Obviously with larger storage abilities more information can be collected. This used to be the advantage of only those fortunate enough to have a large physical space. Much more is able to be preserved digitally because it doesn’t require large spaces. A larger collection can mean a challenge to organize it. But with more information in our collection, we have a greater chance to disseminate exactly what the patron needs.
Storage and memory of computers are not the same thing. Memory refers to internal storage areas in the computer. This data storage comes in the form of chips and it holds information that is currently being used by the computer. It is referred to as RAM or random access memory of the computer. The larger the RAM the more capability it has to run more programs with greater complexity. The word storage is used for memory that exists on tapes or disks. (memory)
Secondary storage is a permanent form of memory; when the electricity is off, the data is still intact. (Williams & Sawyer) A computer’s secondary storage provides a second place where your programs or data is stored. This copy can be removed from the computer and serve as a back up of data if something happens to the hard drive. Storage is measured in bits and eight bits make up a byte. There are many different types of secondary storage; floppy disks, zip disks, optical disks, magnetic tape, smart cards, flash memory sticks, and online storage. A floppy disk holds 1.44 megabytes; a zip disk holds 100-750 megabytes and devises increase their storage up to 250 gigabytes found in external hard disk.
Perpendicular recording technology allows a higher density of data to be packed onto a single disk. (Williams & Sawyer) Our textbook notes that ‘in mid-2005 Seagate Technology announced a disk drive for notebook computers that stores 160 gigabytes of storage. Yesterday, a headline on storagereview.com. read, “Building on its leadership, Seagate today announced that it has begun worldwide volume shipments of the industry's first 250GB-per-disc, 3.5-inch disc drive on the strength of second-generation perpendicular magnetic recording technology. (Seagate Ships… ) “Maxell and InPhase hoped to have a 300GB disks the size of a CD sometime this year… the drives costing upwards of 15,000 and the media $120 a piece.” (Abro ) But the trend is these prices will come down. Marshall Breeding noted, “Three years ago … a DVD-R drive sold for just under $1,000 and the blank discs cost as much as $20 each. Now, drives are under $200 and a blank disc costs well below $1.” (Breeding)
Online storage is another strategy for preserving data if you don’t have the space to back up your records in house. Usually you pay for these services but some are being offered free now. They are likened to car insurance reminding potential customers that their service could make the difference between a bad day and catastrophe. (Larkin) This type of back up may not be necessary for school Libraries for but it may be useful for larger Libraries.
Much like the multi-core processor the RAID splits the work up, allowing for more storage. “The RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) system has been widely used in practical storage applications for better performance, cost effectiveness, and reliability. This study proposes a novel variant of RAID named Zoned-RAID” (Z-RAID). “Z-RAID improves the performance of traditional RAID by utilizing the zoning property of modern disks which provides multiple zones with different data transfer rates within a disk…. Z-RAID provides a higher effective data transfer rate in normal mode with no disadvantage.” (Kim, Seon Ho)
Preservation of Digital formats
There are many miraculous things about this tiny technology that opens up vast preservation possibilities for Libraries. The Library can preserve and archive more information but needs less physical space to store it. In the short term this archival digitized information can be shared or accessed many times without any degradation, unlike the dangers to paper objects. But there are issues with long-term accessibility. Information has to be able to survive the long-term changes in storage media, devices, and data formats. (Lorie) This digital format has to be readable by the machines in the future. It is not practical to keep one sample machine from each generation of hardware to read the old formatted storage. It is also impractical to copy it from one medium to the next. Hilde van Wijngaarden, head of the National Library of the Netherlands said, “It is a major problem, but it is remarkable how little known it is…People just accept that things no longer work after ten years.”(A New Way to…) But new technology is being developed to address this issue. IBM is working on the Universal Virtual Computer. This device “allows the preservation of the original bit stream of digital information objects in a way that can be interpreted by future computers.” (Kol, N.J.C.) Right now Magnetic Tape has been voted the best option for long-term data archival storage. (Moore)
Once data is processed, output hardware is the devices that translate the information processed by the computer into a form that humans can understand. There are two types of output. The first is soft copy that exists only electronically on the display screen or audio or voice form and the second is hardcopy, information that is printed out. (Williams & Sawyer) As a library upgrades its hardware, consideration is given to which components are clearly not up to grade and which can last longer. Usually the decision is made that monitors can printers can last longer than the processing components. Although libraries are not expected to be state-of-the-art technology centers, a critical assessment of the overall impression of the library’s equipment should be part of the upgrade or expansion decision.
Computer Replenishment Policy
Keeping systems up-to-date so users are satisfied and productive warrants a computer replenishment policy. Even though price per unit costs have steadily gone down over the years, the replenishment cycle has gone from a five to seven year cycle down to two to three years, dependent on the applications used and the capacity of the server to support existing and new applications (Briggs, 2006). In a replenishment policy, hardware purchases are timed so that the existing hardware is used to its fullest potential and isn’t outdated before rollout of the new equipment.
There are options to achieve this balancing act. For instance, Advocate HealthCare in Oak Brook, Illinois gave their front-end users the new computer hardware while the support functions are given the existing computers. Another option is to work with one provider as some software providers are beginning to bundle applications, support, and hardware in their contract. Or lastly, purchase equipment directly during sales offers which may help reduce costs for a library, but may not yield the best price nor resolve software and hardware integration issues. (Briggs, 2006)
As previously stated, purchasing a system that can be easily expanded with additional RAM or memory cards is critical. Adding more memory is less expensive than adding new equipment, but eventually equipment will need replacement based on application upgrades and warranty expirations.
It is not feasible that one or two individuals can research and assess the best solution for the library. As baby-boomers reach retirement age, libraries can reach out to their patrons’ expertise to comprise a replenishment committee charged with the specific responsibility of designing a policy and its administration. (Back to the top)
This is not your parents’ library
Although it is not believed that print media will completely disappear, Pod and vidcasting lead the way toward a more realistic and real-time interface. Patrons use these communication vehicles at home and will want to experience it in public venues. Libraries will look to embrace technology and create space to integrate it with soft hardware (books, periodicals, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs). One example currently in use by the Minneapolis Central Public Library is to have soft hardware collections surround a bank of computers. Patrons can access inter-related information through a variety of tools in a dedicated space. (Bednarz)
Librarians would do well to attune themselves to the ways different generations approach technology. Mark Presky coined the terms “digital natives and digital immigrants” The generation growing up now are confident in their approach, experimenting with new hardware until they get what they need. These are the “Native Speakers.” The rest of the generations are new this territory, they are the “digital immigrants.” They often experience apprehension with trying and trusting these new devices. Librarians can play a role in helping digital immigrants get accustomed to and enjoy this new territory, the digital age.
With the powerful processing and storage devices “information is more fluid”. (Fischer) It moves with people in their daily lives and it changes form. We listen to our book, we watch items in our e-mails and with the right equipment we see our phones calls. “There are over 2.7 searches performed on google each month.” To whom were these questions addresses before google? (Glumbert) Technology will continue to advance and it is up to the library to stretch and grow with it. It is an opportunity to reflect on their patrons’ needs and reinvent their role within the community. Thankfully,“ 91% of the total respondents believed libraries will exist in the future, despite all of the information available on the Internet.” (ALA library fact sheet) Libraries will continue to play a key role archiving and disseminating information.
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