Category Archives: Library Technology/Computers

Renewing laptop computers at Cabell Library

Can someone please post detailed rules about loaning and renewing computers? I know the basic rules of one a day loan and one renewal. However, it seems everytime I make a trip to renew the computer, there is a new rule. This time it was “no renewal when the computer being renewed is the only one or last one available”. Really? really? I was still working on that computer! I have a right to my one renewal regardless if it’s the only one or not. I know I have to share it with everyone else and I don’t mind doing that… after my time is up. So please someone, for my sanity, put up clear and concise rules that I’ll be happy to follow.

from: a professional student

Teresa Doherty, Head of Circulation and Information Services, replies…

As you are aware, laptops are in very high demand in Cabell Library, and our students compete for this limited resource. We recently reviewed our usage statistics, and with input from students, we have changed our check-out procedures to make them available to more students. There is no longer a restriction of one laptop loan per day, and there is no longer an automatic renewal option for laptop loans. Library staff are allowed to make an exception for a requested renewal when there are other laptops available for loan. However, if the laptop you are returning is the only one that can be offered to other patrons, you will not be allowed to renew it. The laptop check-out webpage and check-out privileges webpage will be updated to reflect this change.

VCU Libraries is pleased to partner with Technology Services to offer laptops to our students. Earlier this semester, the oldest laptops, with which we started the pilot loan program more than five years ago, were replaced with newer models. Additional older laptops will be replaced over the summer. If you have questions about our technology loans, including laptops, headphones, headsets, iPads, e-readers and more, please feel free to contact me directly at

Library Computer speed

Is it just me or are the computers at TML incredibly buggy and slow? I’m
not sure if this is a software issue related to the new Windows or an
update issue or what. I am having constant difficulty with both IE and
Firefox running incredibly slowly, frequently freezing up, not accessing
certain sites correctly, etc. I just restarted the computer I was using,
and it said it was installing 7 updates. Then I continued to have the
same problems as before. I have noticed this on several different
machines. Any information on whether this is a Windows issue, a network
issue, a hardware issue, or what?

From: a staff member

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

Thank you for the suggestion. We strive to provide technology that makes a positive difference for our users and thus regret the problems you experienced. We have taken a closer look at our current public computers and have not been able to duplicate these problems. The one point in your message about pending Windows updates is especially interesting, and we will investigate how we might better schedule these. In the future please report problems to a service desk and note the applications you were accessing so we can do more troubleshooting.

Request for SPSS software on library computers

There is a huge need to install SPSS software in the ONLY FOUR computers in Graduate study room 4th floor. Thanks

From: a graduate student

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

Thank you for the suggestion regarding SPSS.

We are working to have SPSS available on all of the library computers in partnership with Technology Services. This Fall we have successfully deployed SAS, Mathematica, and JMP to all of the library computers as virtual applications. The current issue with SPSS revolves around licensing, which is preventing us from deploying SPSS as a virtual application. SPSS is available for download onto individual machines.

Suggested change to the library search box

Hi Dear Library Official, You all do a great job running the place. I have a suggestion, which is very simple. I access the library’s web page by typing in . On the home page, you have an immediate (and convenient) search field for the catalog, which only contains two criteria for narrowing one’s search: “words anywhere” and “title begins with. . .” Why not include the very common-sense option of ‘Author’s name’? Obviously, you could enter the author and select “words anywhere,” but this preferentially seems to generate books about the author or anthologies, more than works by the author. I just ran a search for “Foote, Shelby,” and he wasn’t hit upon as the author until the thirteenth entry; that’s not so bad, but there’s no reason to have to sort through biographical and critical literature when one only wants to see the primary documents. Cheers, Thanks for reading.

From: an undergraduate student

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

Thank you for taking the time to write us about the library search box. We continue to make changes, but seek to balance how many features to include without making it overwhelming. In addition to author, there are a number of other searches that are only available by going directly to

In the near future we expect to bring even better library search tools to the VCU Community. In particular we are looking at a single search box that brings back results sorted by relevance and grouped in facets. In this type of environment it should be easier to hone in on works by an author much more quickly, and still get the benefits of seeing the other biographical and critical sources. Thanks again.

Use of laptops at desktop computer workstations

I am a student that utilizes the library a lot, and I have noticed more and more on the 2nd floor, that the desks with computers on them have been taken over by people WITH computers….they sit there on their personal computers while the school one is unused…this is ridiculous. I do not bring my personal computer with me to the library, and often use the ones provided. I have had to search all over for computers when people take up desks with their own. Please do something with this. I know I am not the only student who is frustrated at this situation!!!

From: a graduate student

I would like to raise a personal concern regarding the use of lap-tops in front of unused computer terminals. Today, I was in the learning commons and saw that nearly a dozen of the computer terminals were not free for use as students were using the power outlets at these terminals to plug in their lap-tops. I wish that the library would please do something to address this problem. Not all of us have a laptop and the students that are doing this are either unaware of how selfish their behaviour is, or they don’t care. Please take my concern under consideration so that in the future more students are not deprived of the use of the facilities for which we pay so much for. Thank you for your time.

From: an undergraduate student

I see a lot of people sitting by a desk that has a desktop, but they are using their laptops. is it possible to put some type of sign that says that is not allowed. Thank You

from: a library patron

Mary Ellen Spencer, Head of Research and Instructional Services, replies…

First, thanks to everyone who sent in these comments about the use of laptops and space in the new Learning Commons. Please know that VCU students, faculty, and staff engaging in academic work have priority use of the computing resources at the library. As students, you should feel free to ask a person sitting at a computer workstation and not using it if they will relocate so that you can use the computer. Both library staff and security guards are available to assist you in getting access to a workstation.

As I’m sure you know, space is at a premium in Cabell Library, and we simply don’t have enough to meet everyone’s needs. That said, the information you’ve provided is helpful to us as we plan how best to use the space we do have. Please keep sending your comments and suggestions. Thanks again for taking the time to post to our blog.

Converting documents to PDF files

It would be awesome if the computers on Cabell’s 2nd fl have a pdf converter (such as doPDF 7, which is free) installed in them. That way we can reduce the need for a hard copy and paper usage.

From: a library patron

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

Thank you Vi for the suggestion. It is worth exploring, especially for saving web pages as pdf. All of the VCU Libraries public computers currently have the ability to save as pdf through Microsoft Office for all Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files. Simply choose “save as” and you will see pdf as one of the options.

In terms of saving paper it is also worth mentioning our digital senders which are located throughout both libraries and give you the ability to easily scan paper copies and send them through email as pdf. The digital senders are part of our suite of scanning services.

Print from your laptop at the library

One of the problems I face when working on my laptop in the library is printing. I have to put my file on a flash drive or on the Blackboard content system, wait for an open computer (which could take forever), open the file and print it on that computer (which DOES take forever), then print it at one of the print stations. Is there a way I can cut out the middle computer (the extremely slow one) from the process and not take up library computers just to print two pages? It would be helpful if there were a way to send print jobs directly to the library print stations through the VCU Libraries web site. That way I could print my documents from my personal laptop without waiting for a library computer to use.

From: an undergraduate student

Mary Ellen Spencer, Head of Research and Instructional Services, replies…

Good news: laptop users can send print jobs to the Pay4Print workstations in both the Cabell Library and the Tompkins-McCaw Library. Simply download the printer driver(s) you need from the Technology Services Web site. If you need help or have any questions, just contact the Help Desk at 8-2227. Thanks for sending the suggestion, and I hope the information is helpful to you.

Google Chrome on library workstations

I was curious if the library computers could have Google Chrome added as a browsing option. It’s the third most widely used browser on the internet and I’d like to have the option to use it on school computers, not to mention that it loads google things much faster than any other browser. Just a thought…

From: an undergraduate student

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

I too have been very impressed with Google Chrome for my personal computing. There is a certain amount of overhead for us to add new programs on public computers, which includes keeping them updated and properly configured for public access. This is an area we can investigate in the future. Thanks for the suggestion.

Housekeeping in the Basement Computer Lab

Please thoroughly clean Cabell Library’s basement where the computers are. The keyboards are sticky, the tables are dirty, and the floor needs to be swept, mopped and waxed. I have to use the computers in Cabell because I don’t have a laptop at the moment and it would be nice to use them in a clean environment. Thank you!

From: an undergraduate student

Jeanne Hammer, Associate University Librarian for Administration and Policy Development replies…

Thank you for bringing the condition in the B-8 lab to our attention. The Libraries has submitted a work order to Facilities for the housekeeping contract company to clean the floor. Your concern about the tables and keyboards has been sent to VCU’s Technology Services staff who the operate the B-8 computer lab.

David Brobst, Technology Services, adds…
Technology Services contracts for professional cleaning services five times per semester for the keyboards, mice, monitors, and work surfaces in the B-8 computer lab. In addition, the Tech Squad wipes down keyboards at least once each day, more often than that the during the busier times of the semester. Technology Services also makes disinfecting wipes available for students who want to clean any part of their work area in the lab.

VCU Libraries and Technology Services thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us.

Linking to the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum

Hi! I came across your site today while doing some research on the history of paper making and printing. You provide some really great resources, but I noticed that your link to is broken.

From: an undergraduate student

Patricia Selinger, Head, Preservation Department replies…

Thank you for helping me correct the bad link to the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum! We typically use reports generated by LinkScan software to identify dead links in our web pages. LinkScan did not pick up this particular one for some reason. I found the new link to the Museum ( ) and corrected it on the web page. Thank you very much for your suggestion!