Digital Library – digital checkouts

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By Benjamin Kwiecien

By Benjamin Kwiecien

Despite the technology being available at the Digital Library for several years, most students are still not aware that they are able to check out laptop computers right at the front desk. When told that they can check out laptops, students often react with great surprise.

“I did not know that you could check out laptops here,” said student Allison Ellingson. “They didn’t announce it or anything.”

Little did she and many others know that, since the Library opened in 2003, 24 Gateway laptops running Windows XP Professional have been accessible to students and members of the community free of charge; all that’s needed is library card and a driver’s license.

The computers are checked out on a first come, first serve basis for periods of up to two hours, and the process of checking out a laptop is simple and only takes about five minutes.

When a student requests a laptop, the librarian will obtain his or her driver’s license and library card, both of which are kept until the laptop is returned safely. A few minutes are taken to examine the laptop and document its condition upon checkout, and the student must sign a form agreeing to the laptop checkout policies and a specific return time. After that, the student is free to use the computer for the allotted time.

The checkout policies themselves ensure that the laptops are kept in proper running condition; the laptops are not allowed to be taken outside the library, and no additional software may be installed by the student. If the laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged, the student may face fines of up to $4,000, and a late fee of $10 an hour will be charged for each hour the laptop is overdue.

Viewpoints decided to try out the laptop program, and the result was good.

The laptop was fully charged and ready to go, and after the mandatory checkout process the laptop was booted up and surfing the Web in seconds.

The computer itself came in good condition and was very clean (most likely from lack of use), and the battery appeared to be fully charged. The system was fast and properly configured in most visible aspects. Unfortunately, the system clock was behind by an hour, which made it difficult to be mindful of the return time while using it.

While no longer at the forefront of its technology, the laptop was modestly equipped, sporting an Intel Pentium 4-M processor, 256 megabytes of memory, and a 64 megabyte ATI graphics card. It, along with all the others, had two expansion slots, a 15 inch LCD, a floppy drive, an 8x DVD drive, two USB ports, a built in modem, a serial connector, VGA output, a parallel port, an ethernet jack (in addition to built-in wireless networking), a PS/2 port, RCA video output, a built in microphone, stereo speakers, and a docking port.

Because of the large array of hardware features, the laptop felt a little large and bulky. This made it somewhat difficult to handle, but, thankfully, it did not seem too heavy for the average student. Since the machine was not allowed to be taken outside the Library, we didn’t have to carry it very far.

Taken as a whole, the entire process was fast and convenient, and the computer was returned with no hassle.

While the laptops seem like a good deal, at least one student, John Lingo, was skeptical.

“Yeah, I knew about them, but I didn’t want to utilize it. Laptops are insufficient when compared to desktops.”

Lingo raises a valid point; after all, there are plenty of desktop computers for students to use at the Library. Even so, there are a few reasons why the laptops are a good choice.

Though they are smaller, the laptops do not suffer from any lack of power.

“The laptops are basically the same,” said Library technician Kwong Lai when asked how they compared to the desktop systems in terms of memory and processing power.

In addition, the laptops can be taken anywhere in the Library, be it a private study room for group work, a secluded corner, or even one’s favorite, most comfortable chair. That kind of mobility simply does not exist with the other computers.

When the library is particularly crowded, all of the desktop computers may be in use. In such a scenario, the laptops can serve as an extra reserve just in case every console is saturated.

All in all, the laptops are just one of the many resources that the students at RCC have available to them, and student Andy Au was able to sum it up quite eloquently when he sad, “It’s a good, essential tool.”

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