- Wireless Networking:A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians
Although there are many books and publications about setting up wireless networks, none of them have focused on library issues and needs. This book strives to fill that gap. Both authors have extensive experience in making the migration from a wired network to a wireless environment. Alcorn serves as reference technology librarian at West Des Moines (Iowa) Public Library and has published on Web Junction's Technology Resources Web site (www.webjunction.org). Allen is the coordinator of instructional services, University of South Florida Tampa Library.
Starting with a chapter titled "Wireless Networking Basics," Alcorn and Allen examine "wireless" going back to the Scottish physicist James Maxwell. [End Page 128] Using well-laid-out graphics, charts, and sidebars, the electromagnetic spectrum is described in easy to understand language with a clear explanation of vocabulary and scientific concepts. The rest of chapter 1 examines how wireless networking works, what types are available, and the various standards that govern wireless.
Chapter 2 may be of the greatest value to those asking, "Why go wireless?" Starting with a list of possible answers to that question, the authors investigate the pros and cons of wired versus wireless. Using charts and brief case studies, clear arguments are made in support of going wireless. Case studies cover both academic and public libraries of various sizes. The authors conclude with the observation that the best reason to go wireless is user demand.
Planning for the Wi-Fi network is when many libraries encounter the most difficulty. The authors use the idea of "who, what, when, where, and how" to organize the process. The "who" covers assigning responsibility and setting up communications with the necessary people. "What" focuses on needs assessment. The authors include a sample document plus a list of questions that should be asked. Both will be useful to the technology planner. This may seem obvious, but of equal importance is a timeline showing "when" things need to be done and by whom. Going into great detail in one area that may require external technical assistance, the authors examine how to do a site survey to help you determine "where" to place access points and to understand any structural obstacles. A sample site survey is included as an appendix to the book. Reviewing all of the collected information and the budget gets the reader to the "how" of creating a Wi-Fi network. This section includes examining and setting up policies for the use of the network. Several well-written policies are included as examples. The last task the authors mention is marketing. This topic would have benefited from a chapter of its own as it does not get enough emphasis in the four pages dedicated to it. However, there is an excellent marketing checklist included.
One of the toughest decisions the librarian in charge of a wireless project will encounter is selecting and installing hardware. In order to simplify this task, the authors list 10 questions that the project leader should ask before proceeding with purchase and installation, including network topology, separating public and staff networks, roaming issues, printing over the Wi-Fi network, wireless peripherals such as barcode scanners for staff use, lending laptops to users, interoperability of all equipment, finding certified Wi-Fi equipment, management of bandwidth and the network, and how installation will be handled. The authors then address each question with detailed and very understandable explanations in non-technical language.
There is one recommendation that could be disputed. In looking at laptops, after explaining about external Wi-Fi cards (network interface card, NIC) that can be used with older laptops, the authors advise against using NICs for circulating laptops and go so far as to recommend not making laptops available without an internal card. In the opinion of the reviewer, it is better to have older laptops than none at all. Again, several well-written case studies are included to illustrate approaches to the various questions.