Public libraries make public computers feel like your own with Personal User Privacy and Security – PUPS

Telecompetitor reports on new sresearch from the University of Kansas Institute for Policy & Social Research on the state of computer use in libraries. The idea that people get access to computers, skills and broadband from the library isn’t new – although it is still valuable. But Telecompetitor picked up on something that is new – the Personal User Privacy and Security…

The University of Kansas developed and is testing, in the libraries, a system called PUPS (Personal User Privacy and Security). PUPS is “a USB-based virtual computing environment… designed to afford public computer users increased customizability, session state per­sistence, and security as compared to the restricted use settings of most library PCs.”

In other words, while library computers are generally locked down and don’t allow for customization, PUPS gives its users the feeling of a personal computer, including the ability to download software and retain their unique user settings. They found that PUPS is most useful to users with digital access but was less useful for users struggling in the second area: digital literacy.

Having worked in libraries, I’ve seen there is a spectrum of skills that walk through the door and there always has been. There are the kids or travelers who are power users. Back in the day, they wanted the DOS prompt to get to their email. As technical as I am, they are often much more so or at least experts in some segment of use. There are folks who may need help remembering how to get to their Gmail. There are folks who, especially since prevalence of smartphones and tablets, aren’t comfortable with the mouse. PUPS targets the first and second group of folks.

There are so many reasons PUPS is a boon. It’s easier to use a computer when it looks like they way you are used to seeing it. (Just think about using a friend’s computer or phone for a minute. It’s disorienting.) Second your digital stuff is always with you. You don’t have to worry about something happening to the computer at the library or having to access “the cloud” every time you want to work on something. Finally, you can open up your files in various locations. So if you move to another part of town, you can still access your midterm report.

PUPS can help users who are digitally astute, but lacking access to a device or broadband, feel more autonomous and more digitally connected.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, education, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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