Wednesday, February 18, 2004

My computer lab observations:

I sat in the second floor computer lab at Helen C. White for an hour in the afternoon on a Wednesday. The first thing that surprised me was how busy it was. I've only ever been in there on weeknights, which are definitely busy. I had no idea this many people used the computer lab during the day. All of the Windows computers were full, like many other people wandering around; I had to settle for a Mac. The frustrating part was that a lot of the computers had people's stuff at them and things were open on the screen, but no one was sitting there. Apparently no one is worried about getting his or her stuff stolen. A lot of people were walking around, either coming or going, or collecting things from the printer.

The first computer I sat down at was actually not working. I felt a little stupid clicking the mouse several times before finally getting up and finding a different computer. I can probably guess that I wasn't the first to sit at that computer, find out that it didn't work, and not tell the help desk. There were students at the help desk talking to the employees while I was there, so apparently some people are brave enough to ask for help. One of the staff came and helped the girl sitting behind me who wasn't sure how to get a Powerpoint file onto her disk. After helping her he wandered around for a few minutes, looking to see if anyone else needed help.

One thing I noticed while attempting to make observations is that it is difficult while using a Mac.

In the area where I was sitting, each computer user has his/her own cubicle, and you can't really see what others are doing. The Windows computers are fairly close together, and there isn't any sort of privacy or division between them. I had to crane my head around the corner in order to look at what anyone else is doing.

A lot of the people at the Windows computers at the right side of the room were typing papers. A bunch had books out. While some at the Windows computers right inside the door were writing papers, they seemed to be frequented more by those who were coming and going more quickly. They were checking e-mail or searching for things on the Internet, (several of them using Google). One girl looked like she was making travel plans, on Expedia or a similar site.

I also found that more of the Mac users tended to be working in the special applications. One guy was using Dreamweaver and another with headphones on was in a different program I hadn't seen before. Most of the Mac users seemed to be more comfortable using the Mac than I did.

For the most part, the computer users all seemed to be students. One older man came in and sat at the computer behind me, but was there for less than five minutes.

I always find the environment interesting. Except for the sound of typing, there wasn’t a lot of noise. A couple of people were talking, but not many. I think the computer lab is 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the library, probably from all of the technology in the room. There is always the overwhelming hum of the computers. That combined with the fluorescent lights can definitely give a person a headache. Not a place that I would choose to study, but it apparently works for a lot of other students, because it is definitely pretty busy in here.


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