Authentication and Access: Accommodating Public Users in an Academic World
In the fall of 2004, the Academic Computing Center, a division of the Information Technology Services Department (ITS) at Minnesota State University, Mankato took over responsibility for the computers in the public areas of Memorial Library. For the first time, affiliated Memorial Library users were required to authenticate using a campus username and password, a change that effectively eliminated computer access for anyone not part of the university community. This posed a dilemma for the librarians. Because of its Federal Depository status, the library had a responsibility to provide general access to both print and online government publications for the general public. Furthermore, the library had a long tradition of providing guest access to most library resources, and there was reluctance to abandon the practice. Therefore the librarians worked with ITS to retain a small group of six computers that did not require authentication and were clearly marked for community use, along with several standup, open-access computers on each floor used primarily for searching the library catalog. The additional need to provide computer access to high school students visiting the library for research and instruction led to more discussions with ITS and resulted in a means of generating temporary usernames and passwords through a Web form. These user accommodations were implemented in the library without creating a written policy governing the use of open-access computers.