Olin Library printers cause problems for students, staff

| News Editor

As anyone hoping to print a paper between classes has probably noticed, the Olin Library printer kiosks have had difficulties with network issues this semester, leading to login, payment and printing problems for Washington University community members.

As a central location on campus, Olin has multiple printers per floor and is busier than the other libraries combined, increasing the problems’ impact.

Bill W. Fryman, the head of library systems, noted that some of the printing problems originate from the high volume of students using their many services on the same PaperCut system, including color printing, scanning and photocopying.

“The library as a whole serves basically…every student on campus, plus a pretty good percentage of faculty and staff who come in and use our services as well,” Fryman said. “One of the differences in the library and the other locations is that we’re providing multiple services…that throws in some complications that other locations don’t have.”

For students rushing to print or make copies quickly between classes, the library’s printing problems can be a major problem, as sophomore Holly Sprow noted.

“When I’m running between classes and go to print in the library, it can be really annoying when I swipe my card to print and nothing works,” Sprow said.

Fryman noted that the printing problems likely originated after the University’s switch to the PaperCut system that charges students for printing. In 2006, Washington University libraries implemented pay printing in order to reduce waste and theft of computer paper.

“The reason [for charging money] was that people were literally leaving reams of [abandoned printed] paper in the printers in the evenings and we were throwing away boxes and boxes of paper every week. The library just couldn’t afford to pay for that much paper,” Fryman said.

The library then switched to the PaperCut system, which is now used by the majority of printing locations on campus, in 2011. The single system handles nearly all of the library’s printing and copying services, resulting in assorted network or hardware problems.

Because of the high traffic it sees, Olin Library plans to purchase a new generation of printers in the coming year. This will be the third generation of printers on the PaperCut system, and library staff members noted that they plan to consider student comments to accommodate the speed and variety of operations performed.

According to Fryman, the library staff keeps track of the student comments and concerns about the printers to better prepare for discussions with vendors about new purchases.

In the past few weeks, just over 50 students and faculty have been surveyed to explain their experiences with the faulty printers to library staff for such reasons.

Chris Brady, a circulation librarian at Olin Library, found that the toughest part about solving the printer problems was getting hurried students and faculty to stay long enough to analyze the issue at hand. However, he noted that the problems are not as difficult to handle as they appear.

“There’s more than one small problem, but it’s not a pervasive, crippling kind of thing that we’re trying to address. We’re working through it. A lot of times it’s not a simple change-that-setting thing; [it’s] more looking to talking to our vendors,” Brady said.

With additional reporting by Dylan Bassett.

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