Exploring Fax Machines

Fax machines. Our circulation staff frequently expresses discontent with our current fax machine. “It’s too complicated” and “The students only have a fax number” are frequent comments. So I embarked to find a simpler solution.

The first unsurprising content I found discussed how faxing was a dying technology that keeps holding on. Why the fax still lives (and how to kill it) by Christopher Null is a particularly good overview of why people are still faxing. In academia, I personally think most students are still faxing lease agreements and transcripts because the instructions said to either fax or mail the information. The instruction to mail the document was either never read or not read early enough to meet a deadline. I also truly agree with Null that, if you can find a fax machine, faxing should be easier and faster then the “more convoluted method of printing, signing, scanning, and then emailing a document to someone as an attachment.”

But what if there were online alternatives? Turns out there are! Another article from PC World describes two ways on How to Fax From Your Computer by Michael King. King describes a program available in Windows 7 (and I found out Windows 8) that can turn your computer into a fax machine. Interesting, but not a solution for libraries. However, Kings second recommendation is to use an online service. He mentions a few options and then lists the steps to send a fax using FaxZero. I found several other positive articles and reviews for FaxZero and decided to advertise this service in our library FAQ’s. In my opinion, FaxZero offers a simple interface that people who are comfortable attaching and uploading documents online can understand, especially if those same individuals are uncertain what this thing called a fax is.

Ok, so there are cool online alternatives but our library can’t just eliminate the fax machine. We have too many requests to use it. So I scanned the reviews and picked a simple cheap replacement to the behemoth Multifunction Printer (Toshiba E-Studio 205L) that currently serves as the public fax machine. I chose a Brother FAX 575. Time will tell if this is truly a better choice.