Public User's Meeting

Public Records Division(PRD)/Public Information Services Division (PSSD)
Quarterly Public User's Meeting
March 22, 2011

The Public User's Meeting was held at 2:00 p.m. in the Global IP Academy, Madison East, 2nd floor, at 600 Dulany Street on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. Martha Sneed, Manager of PSSD, chaired the meeting. There were 19 members of the public in attendance.

Martha Sneed called the meeting to order and introduced Chief Information Officer John Owens, who announced some major upcoming changes to the operation of the Public Search Facility (PSF).

Public Search Facility Space Consolidation

The 2nd floor of the PSF will be converted into office space that is sorely needed for patent examiners. Of the total 225 workstations in the PSF, less than half are being regularly utilized. The highest concurrent use in the past two years was 110 workstations which happened on one day in one month. Average utilization during peak hours is between 70-80 workstations. Since there are a total of 116 workstations on the first floor of the PSF, the first floor is sufficient to provide full access to UPWS workstations without a wait. The first floor will continue to have two public service desks as it does now. With respect to workstations, any that are at end-of-life will be replaced. In the future if there is a need for more workstations, there is room on the first floor with some changes to accommodate added workstation area. I expect the closure of the first floor to occur on May 2 although it could be postponed a bit.

Question: What will happen to the workstations on the 2nd floor?
Answer: They will be surplused according to federal government guidelines. As you may know, laptops are being deployed to all employees, so the 2nd floor workstations will not be repurposed for employees.

Question: What happened to the change in the lighting pattern in the PSF? Sometimes the first floor has differentiated lighting and sometimes it doesn't.
Answer: The checkerboard lighting configuration introduced some time ago is still available. It is not an automatic function and must be manually operated. There will be a designated member of the staff to turn on the reduced lighting pattern at the start of each day.

Question: With the changes coming to the PSF how will possible conflicts among customers be resolved should they arise with more people working closely in less space?
Answer: First, the workstations were designed to be spacious. Every workstation provides 36 square feet for the customer. There are also established "Rules of Conduct" for individuals working/visiting in government buildings/locations. The rules that relate specifically to USPTO were last updated in 2010. They will be updated in May 2011 to reflect new PSF service hours and will be distributed widely.

Question: Will another cell phone booth be added for people to conveniently make calls without disturbing others?
Answer: No, there are no plans to add another booth.

Question: The absence of staff in the PSF after 6:00pm has been well received. Is it possible to extend hours of operation to 9:00pm?
Answer: Not without changing the USPTO Security contract and costing additional dollars. There are no plans to extend operating hours to 9:00pm.

Question: The trend data used by PTO to determine usage is based on data gathered during a down economy. Isn't it possible that once the economy recovers usage of the PSF may go up? Once the space is re-allocated it won't be recovered by the PSF for public use.
Answer: The data used to make the determination to downsize the PSF went back as far as 2006. It shows a continuous downward trend in workstation usage. If it becomes necessary, there is adequate space on the first floor to add extra workstations.

Question: Is WIFI on the first floor sufficient to accommodate the additional use of laptops?
Answer: Yes.

Changes to staffed service hours

Staff hours in the PSF will change. PSF staff will only be available until 5:00pm instead of 6:00pm. The PSF will remain open until 8:00pm for public use. There will continue to be security officers on duty until 8:00pm.

Question: A lot of costs savings measures have come down to agencies from Congress and the President. Thank you for your efforts to work with the public users.
Answer: We appreciate the cooperation from the users as well.

Question: What about the customer boxes? Why are they being removed?
Answer: The customer boxes are going away as a cost savings measure. The cost of upkeep is not being recouped through the fees charged to the customers.

Question: Will at-cost orders continue to be available?
Answer: Yes. They can be picked up from the window in RSQ or shipped over night.

Question: Close the customer boxes at Carlyle but keep the ones located at RSQ.
Answer: The cost benefit ratio for the agency to manage the boxes is too low to justify keeping them.

Question: What about the PSF over the long term - 2012 and beyond?
Answer: There will always be a need in some form for searches. We are looking into extending the same type of search capabilities to the PTDLs as exist in the PSF.

Question: Why doesn't Virginia have a PTDL?
Answer: Until about 2 years ago there was one at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. They dropped out after 20 years in the program.

Question: Will the workstations in the FIU be replaced?
Answer: The FIU is under the direction of the Office of Administrative Services, but if the workstations are maintained by the OCIO's office they will be replaced if they are past their life-cycle.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:50pm. The next Public User's Meeting date and location will be announced.