Helping your patrons with their technology. What’s your policy?

One of our librarians here in Nebraska sent me the following e-mail asking for my assistance. With her permission I’m posting it here looking for input from anyone else who may have an opinion.

I find myself needing to write a Technology Assistance Policy and am interested to hear your suggestions. Over the past year, we have found that people are bringing in their personal laptops for troubleshooting. Usually they are looking for help with settings, firewalls, or programs and devices that were not installed properly, and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being asked to uninstall or reinstall programs or to modify their computers in some way. While I am thrilled that they are thinking of us as a technology resource, it is awkward and potentially legally dangerous should something go wrong with their devices. Do you know of any other libraries that have such a policy or where I can find some examples? I have done some searching and only seem to find public access computer policies.

The patrons I see seem to come to me after looking through their manuals or contacting the company. They find the problem unresolved and come to me as a last resort before having to pay the local computer guy for help. Do you have any suggestions on some reliable online resources where I can refer patrons who are looking for this kind of information for free? That way if I decline and explain our policy I can still be able to offer them something, even if it is do-it-yourself.

So here are the questions: Should a public library have such a policy and if so, what should that policy actually say?

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