The ALA reports that 28% of US libraries now check out ereaders to their patrons, but hardly any are offering laptops. Drexel University is one of the first to offer loaner laptops to their students and they just installed a new rental kiosk to make the laptops available 24 hours a day.
The kiosk was sold by Laptops Anytime, a Texas based firm that has for several years been offering a solution to the problem of desperately needing a laptop after midnight.
This particular model was customized for Drexel before being installed in the Hagerty Library. It stores a dozen Macbooks in individual slots that offer charging, security against theft, and it even wipes any content left behind on a laptop by the last user. Students and staff can use their library card/university ID to check out one of the Macbooks, which they can use free for up to five hours.
The kiosk was installed on 4 December during the last week of classes. As of Thursday, 11 January, the laptops had been borrowed 385 times with the greatest demand in the early afternoon.
I don’t know about you but this strikes me as a solution to a problem that isn’t really a problem. These kiosks cost between $12,000 and 30 grand, depending on the options, plus the cost of the laptops. I have no problem with libraries providing computers for students (there was a time when I needed them) but I do think that is money better spent on installing more and better desktop computers.
What’s more, this kiosk was apparently inspired by one student was was afraid of taking his laptop to study in the library late at night. Omer Hashmi told the university’s student newspaper that he was hesitant to carry his personal laptop to and from campus from his off-campus residence because it was both burdensome and posed a security risk.
I’m not sure why it would be a burden to carry a laptop around, and if crime is really that much of a problem then this kiosk won’t last long.