How can college students do 2 a.m. library studies when the libraries are closed? What do students do when they need to use a library computer at that time? To fill those needs and give students the essentials for college life, some schools are testing something new: laptop lending kiosks.
Operating like vending machines or DVD dispensers, a student user navigates a touch screen that authenticates the student’s identity, and then dispenses a charged machine, whether a laptop, tablet or pc. Now, that's cool.
Currently about six universities are using the kiosks provided by LaptopsAnytime.com, according to co founder and vice president Jonathan Rutterberg. Drexel University is one school that recently installed a laptop lending machine. According to Danuta Nitecki, dean of Drexel Libraries, she and her staff began looking into installing the kiosks as a safety concern. They knew it was not safe for students to walk to and from the library with laptops at night. Nitecki says,”It seemed to be a very nice opportunity to do something.”
LaptopsAnytime allows universities to choose the devices they want offered from the school kiosk. MacBooks are very popular, and the device Drexel University chose, but other universities use tablets and PCs.
Each school sets up a user policy to fit their individual needs. For example Drexel set a policy that allows a student to keep their borrowed MacBook for up to five hours. After that time students are charged $5 per hour. The universities can modify any policy variation, user privileges, and email notification method. LaptopsAnytime works with school libraries to define the best lending procedures. Generally it takes roughly three months from initial inquiry to installation of a kiosk, although on occasion it has taken more than a year due to funding cycles.
A kiosk costs varies, based on its specific features. The kiosk at Drexel costs $30,000 based on its features. In addition, the university must pay for the laptops it stocks the machine with, so start up cost is not cheap. Drexel installed its kiosk in December and so far, since the beginning of the semester the response has been very positive. Although the university library still offers over-the-counter laptop borrowing, plus desktops available, students like the advantage of having a laptop available when they need it, like at 4:00 a.m, and the library wants to make that availability possible.
Although the novelty of the kiosk system hasn’t worn off yet, Nitecki, the dean of Drexel libraries, is encouraged by the early feedback. Although there have been some issues with a slow authentication processes, the library is working on getting it on course.
Clearly, the lending kiosks are a success. In addition, laptop kiosks can help with space efficiency. Obviously desktop computers require more space, and when new computers are needed the shift quickly goes to laptops.
There was little opposition to bringing the kiosks in to Drexel, which worked well as universities are typically concerned about changing the status quo. On that note Ruttenberg, of LaptopsAnytime, encourages universities to think differently and focus in the long term.
“It’s hard to come up with a cost justification in a very short term mode,” Ruttenberg said, “but when you start thinking three years out, five years out, or ten years out, all of a sudden things become very obvious."
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