Library offers laptops for rental

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The Library expanded its computer availability in May  with the addition of 40 new laptops for students and staff to rent for  free for a three-hour period.

The laptops must stay within the library and are equipped with the same operating system as the desktop computers, making them equally efficient in terms of their compatibility and processing speed, said Michael Cusack, director of Library Systems and Technology.

“During the summer, everything was moved to Vista using Office 2007,” Cusack said. “We spent lots of time with faculty to make sure the computers have everything that is needed and don’t have what is not necessary. And if students need to download additional stuff to get their work done, it is their
privilege.”

The wireless connection to the printers and fast internet are what students really appreciate, according to a survey administered by Library Systems and Technology in spring 2008.

“[The survey] results showed that students consider the Library to have the best wireless network, [and] we put lots of effort into the computers to make them run as quickly as possible,” Cusack said.

And students don’t have to worry about losing their data in cases of power outage, since computer systems are able to retrieve lost information as they regularly save new data.

“Computers map the documents and continuously store the information onto H hard drive from which the data can be retrieved,” Cusack said.

Although the computer software has recently been updated, the content of visited Web pages is not monitored.

“Students must be responsible themselves,” Cusack said. “This is a university environment where we support educational curiosity, [If] something should occur, we will deal with it accordingly.”

Despite the practicality of the new program, computers have not been rented very often.

“Right now we’re only getting three or four [rentals] at a time,” said Robb Waltner, head of Access Services.

Cusack believes the primary reason rentals aren’t occurring frequently is that students do not know about the possibility to check out laptops, he said.

“We will have to reconsider our advertising strategies and double our efforts,” Cusack said. “We have installed big-screen TVs on all floors to run updates that deliver information about the instant occupancy of desktop computers, opening hours or other services.”

The idea is the laptops will help students when all the desktop computers are occupied and students need computer access to complete work, Waltner said.

Junior psychology major Tommie Irving knew about the laptops but was not fully informed about the terms of using them.

“I am not very familiar with the program and would be worried about finding a place to plug the computer,” Irving said. “However, I might try the program in the future in case I can’t find a desk computer.”

The amount of computers purchased was derived from observing how many additional lab computers were needed to accommodate everybody, Cusack said.

“Monday mornings, when the traffic is really heavy, we had to make labs available holding around 40 additional computers, and we saw almost all of them were occupied,” Cusack said.

Renting the laptops demands user accountability, as overdue fines are set at $10 for every hour they are late.

A lost laptop can result in an $800 fee on a student’s MyWings account, imposing a financial hold, according to the Library’s Web site.

Though damage will inevitably occur as the computers age.

“Library counts with natural wear and tear and does not worry about viruses or information stored on the computer,” Cusack said. “Those get automatically wiped out once the user has finished with the computer.”

Technical equipment in most Florida university libraries is funded by the Florida Center for Library Automation.

Other limitations and fees are set by comparison to other libraries in Florida.

“Right now, we are reaching the limit the budget can handle by having 350 computers accessible to students,” Cusack said. “Despite the budget constraints, we are still considering more, which would require additional funding.”

E-mail Andrea Farah at [email protected]