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MLAG Member’s Wi-Fi Provision

by on October 1, 2010

A very big thank you to all the members who responded to my call for information about their current use of Wi-Fi. I thought it would be useful to give an overview of the responses which are a brilliant example of the important network that MLAG provides.

Hellen Pethers, Natural History Museum


‘Doubts about the implications of the Digital Economy Act – as far as I know unresolved – mean that so far this Museum has not been willing to install wifi access in our new Explore History collections access facility.’

Richard Golland, Imperial War Museum


‘Planning for our new room largely happened before wifi really became common and not too troublesome.  Consequently our tables have points.  It was only last year we convinced IT that risk to network etc. of our users plugging in and also being able to use our opac terminals for general internet access was not lokley to be a big security issue.  There has not been any security problems and abuse of machines.  They are only just starting to consider wifi and so, given the pace at which they go, it is likely retirement and I will come together before they will go for wifi for public areas. So sorry cannot really help but when you have it all sorted would like to know so I can quote NHM as an example of it being ok.’

Chris Mills, Royal Botanical Gardens. Kew


‘At The National Archives we have wifi in our reading rooms, and all public areas I think.  There is no restriction on access.  We have a laminated help sheet at our enquiry points that gives instructions on how to connect via different browsers.  Some browsers are trickier than others.  If a reader has a problem connecting someone from our IT Helpdesk will come over to the reading room to help them.  I haven’t heard of worries or problems over misuse, but we do have a blocking system in place called Websense, which blocks out dodgy websites.  The downside is that it also blocks out perfectly acceptable websites.’

Helen Pye-Smith, National Archives


‘We have WiFi in our library and archive centre.  We give access to anybody (under 16s have to be accompanied by an adult) who asks and issue them with a guidance sheet and password.  We have had WiFi for several years and have had no reported problems with misuse.  It has proven a very successful service among our users and also staff as it allows them to work in the library using the collections at the same time.’

Karen Barker, National Railway Museum


‘At LTM we are a very small set-up, but do allow users to bring their own laptops to access the internet in the Library, using our Board room connection, which is separate from that used by the rest of the Museum.  No additional plug in equipment is allowed.  At the time it was set up, our IT department were concerned about the public possibly being able to hack into our museum systems in some way if they used the same connection as staff – so a separate system was felt to be the best option to minimise risk.  Elsewhere in the Museum’s public galleries visitors have access, at fixed pcs, to our website and TfL’s website, but nothing else.  In the Library, users locate the board room connection on their laptop, we give them the password, and that’s it.  Until now we haven’t had sufficient repeat use to make me worry too much about changing the password more frequently – but that is an option.  They will have already read and agreed our terms and conditions for access, signed our visitor form , and been made aware of our copyright notice and camera policyand the obligation on them to comply with relevant legislation and our regulations, or have access to the collections withdrawn.  I don’t promote the facility on our web pages (at IT’s request) so it is offered at the discretion of staff.  I have assessed the risk of abuse in our small, closely invigilated environment to be small – but it would be good to know if others have had problems.  It seems to work for us.’

Caroline Warhurst, London Transport Museum


‘We don’t have wifi in our reading room, as I understand that there are some technical issues with the building.  Readers can access a limited number of relevant websites from our catalogue terminals, and I don’t recall anyone ever asking for wider access (perhaps we just attract very conservative readers!)’

Michael Ball, National Army Museum


‘We allow wifi but it is strictly regulated by our IT department.  They have the necessary technical protocols in place (I’m not sure I could explain these even if I understood them fully) to protect our own networks and to try and prevent inappropriate use/download etc and they provide a daily changing access password which is issued to our users on a need to know basis.  For our part, we have updated our visitor agreement forms and rules and conditions to ensure, as far as we can, compliance with the following statement: Wireless internet access in the Public Study Room is controlled by an access code, which is changed daily.  Unlawful copying, use and download of material from the internet could jeopardise the Gallery’s provision of such a service and are strictly prohibited.’

Robin Francis, National Portrait Gallery


‘ a university we’re quite different from other respondents.  Our licences only allow us to give wi-fi access to our own staff and students which we control via an authentication system.  There’s one public PC that’s locked down to JSTOR and other databases whose licences allow for walk-in access’

Anthony Hopkins, Witt and Conway Libraries, Courtauld Institute of Art


‘I’m not sure how wise it is to join this discussion as having got the V&A, and by extension the National Art Library, to provide wifi I should not like to jeopardise such a vital service to Museum visitors and Library users.  Perhaps, Richard, you could expand on IWM’s position.  We did have concerns that access to material made available under licence may rather liberally interpret such agreements.  However, we do consider the users of the Library and Museum’s wifi and other facilities to be researchers, which is generally allowed, especially by licences under the JISC umbrella.  There seems to be no real difference between wifi and other hardwired use of the web withing the Library.  Any questionable use, which is little, is handled with tact and discretion, and in my opinion never reaches a stage at which the instution, rather than the individual concerned, could be considered as committing an offense.  As with so many of these new regulations and technologies they remain to be tried and tested in law.’

John Meriton, Nictoria and Albert Museum

‘Just to add to John’s comments: The whole Museum has free Wi-Fi access.  Initially this was password protected but now you can log on automatically.  All you have to do is click to agree terms of use.  We have produced a guide to logging on for pcs, Macs rtc which has worked well.  We try to avoid touching user’s laptops just in case anything goes wrong.  So we encourage self-help.  Users can access all of our licenced networked databases via our Wi-Fi and download segments.  This is allowed under the JISC conditions of use.  We also allow the same to USB memory stick from Library desktop pcs.   There has been some concern in the Museum about the new Digital Economy Act, mainly about people illegally downloading music etc on our network.  In theory we could be sued for this but in reality it is much more likley that this will happen via internet service providers.  Uers now expect us to provide Wi-FI and about 75% of them bring a laptop to the Library.  I think it would fly in the face of common sense to withdraw this service.’

Martin Flynn, V&A

From → Resources

One Comment
  1. One of the roles of a WISP, such as The Cloud, is to transfer the liabilities within in the Digital Act from the venue owner to itself by ensuring all broadcasts are legally compliant.

    For some venues legal compliance is not enough and the ability exists to provide an increased level of content filtering to include pornography, gambling, terrorism etc. thereby ensuring only desired content is available within a venue.

    Public access Wi-Fi is now being utilised as a communications / media channel and provides new ways to engage with visitors, customers and employees as well as generate marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

    Wi-Fi is no longer just about accessing the internet and with smart phones and tablet PCs becoming more prevalent by the day being able to communicate with mobile users is an increasing requirement for many public venues.

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