Subject: Re: Emailing from the public library
Hi Ziners, especially those of you who need a regular email fix (as we do),

Around here, you can use a public library computer by walking in the door and sitting down in front of a monitor. No questions, no one even notices. So I've been amazed to see the challenges imposed by some other U.S. public libraries, who require that a prospective computer user fill out the equivalent of a 1040, buy a computer use card, and pass a lie detector test (okay, just kidding about the test).

The most extreme example occurred on the lovely island of Maui last summer. We entered a charming but almost empty library to ask about using the computer. The librarians, who were borderline hostile (no wonder the library had so few patrons) showed us a bank of several (unused) computers and threw a stack of forms at us. My ever-patient husband completed the forms and handed them over along with the fee, thus entitling him to 30 minutes computer use.

The five of us trooped over to the computers. My husband sat down and logged on to one of them. Because the other computers were unoccupied, my daughter started to use another one. The librarians rushed over and informed us that only people with cards (ie my husband) could use the computer. (They ultimately did allow my daughter to use the computer my husband was on--as long as he sat there with her and watched.) The rest of us wandered around the library under the stern gaze of scowling librarians.

I think my husband still has the Maui library card, but doubt we'll be using it again very soon.

JoAnne in Silicon Valley