Millar Library’s new program beats out concerns
When people think of libraries, what comes to mind? Books? Journals? Dust and shelves and tables?
How about laptop computers?
Portland State’s Millar Library announced last month the availability of a new laptop checkout program for its students. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. A student can, like with any reference material, check out a laptop for use in the library, free of charge. The laptops are available for non-renewable checkout for up to three hours at a time and are equipped with everything a student might need.
Naturally, there have been concerns about the feasibility of such a program. However, it seems safe to say that these concerns are more or less covered in the design of the program itself.
For example, many students are worried about the cost of the program. Student fees are already quite high, and with tuition increasing seemingly every term the question of where these funds are going is on everyone’s minds. The laptop checkout program, however, is not taking up a huge amount of these fees. Outside of the costs of the laptops themselves—10 now, with 10 more to follow in fall term—the maintenance fees are relatively low. It works out to less than a dollar per student.
Another concern is that laptops are easily stolen. And with the volume of students who use PSU’s computer resources, this is a valid concern. But the laptops are equipped with security strips like those on books that will alert library staff when one passes through the gates of the library. At this point, a library security student can retrieve it. And as the laptops themselves are checked out to individual students, it is easy to determine who is at fault for the loss of one. Concern over damage or destruction of these resources has also been voiced. It is potentially the most pressing question on many minds. But this circles back to the checkout procedure: Damage done to the computers can be traced back to whomever was responsible, and as such the person in question can be charged for the repair or replacement.
Still, concerns are concerns. And why move forward with the program when there are so many question marks and so little experience?
The answer is simple: finances. The cost of implementing a laptop checkout program is significantly lower than that of adding more desktop computers to the campus. Outlets and ports would need to be installed, computers bought, space allotted and maintenance made available for new desktops.
Laptops, however, can be used anywhere in the library. The biggest cost is acquisition. They do not require constant connection to a power source and can access the student drives, printers and Internet wirelessly. Minimal maintenance is required for the laptops themselves, and late fees from returns will likely pay for this if necessary. Aside from acquisition fees this is a very affordable investment.
The program was developed as a means of making technology available to all students on campus, according to Michael Bowmen, Interim Assistant University Librarian for Public Services. “There’s a real lack of computer lab space on the campus and an increasing need,” he said. “We have limited space and funds. This is a way for us to provide the ability for people to get online in a cost-efficient manner.”
Portland State University isn’t the first college in Oregon to offer laptops for rental at the library. Both Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University have been offering the service for some time. In fact, the PSU model was based off of OSU’s. Thus far, no schools offering this service have had trouble with theft, damage or destruction. In fact, the program is looked upon favorably at all universities utilizing it.
This program is a great addition to the PSU library. Like those at OSU and many other schools in the U.S., the students and the library can really only benefit from such a program.