Laptop Checkout Program in Peril

Since 2005, the media library has been lending laptops to students, but what good is a laptop checkout service if students don't know about it?

Since 2005, the media library has been lending laptops to students, but what good is a laptop checkout service if students don't know about it?

You can find the media library hidden away in the lower level of Golda Meir. It's like a secret speakeasy or underground casino, where you need a password to checkout a laptop out. Fortunately, only a UWM student ID is needed.

But laptop use is on track to decrease this year. According the media library's reports, Osoucha is one of many students taking advantage of this resource. Last year, 3,676 laptops were in circulation, with undergrads accounting for 3,025 of those laptops. Now, at the end of the 2008 fall semester, there have been 1,068 laptop check outs this year.

Once you've checked one out, you have four hours to find that productive corner of the union or nook of the 8th Note where you always manage to get your homework done. If you really need the convenience of a laptop over night, they offer ones that you can checkout for two days.

With America in the midst of a recession, now is not the most opportune time for a college student, who already has the burden of tuition, room, and board, to purchase a laptop. With the library's laptop checkout service, students can get their money's worth from their university.

UWM senior, Stephanie Osoucha, has been using this service for two years.

“It's a really resource, especially if you don't have a laptop,” says Osoucha. “If you have a personal space on campus, then you can just take your laptop right there.”

The Dell Latitude D800 laptops were purchased from the Information and Media Technologies Department and were funded with money from the Campus Educational Technologies Grant.

UWM media librarian, Beth Traylor, manages the service.

“It's not only great for students without laptops,” says Traylor, “but for students who broke theirs or don't want to lug it around with them at school, we get that a lot.”

The process to check one out takes no more than 2 minutes. First time users sign a waiver stating that they are responsible for the laptop while it is in their possession. They swipe your student ID, you sign your name and you're on you're way.

Each laptop has the basic software that most students need like Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Quick Time, Dreamweaver, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Also on the computer is a survey students can take to let the media library know of any suggestions, problems, or comments they have.

To inform students about the service, the media library posts information and policies on their website and talk about it on library tours, but the media library mainly relies on word of mouth to advertise this resource.

In the three years that the program has been up and running, its use has increased.

“The more people know about it, the more they go and tell their friends about it,” explains Traylor.

Osoucha does her part to spread the word.

“I do tell all my friends about it,” explains Osoucha. “You're paying tuition; you might as well reap the benefits the school has to offer.”

But UWM junior, Lance Guzman, has been left in the dark.

“I didn't know they had that,” says Guzman. “That would've came in useful a couple of times actually.”

Many students find the laptop check out service useful to do their homework somewhere outside of the library. UWM senior, Ben Hostetler, prefers to surf the net in the noisier areas of campus.

“I don't like doing my homework in the library because it's too quiet,” says Hostetler. “I like to study in the Union with a little background music.”

Where ever students take the laptops, they just better bring them back on time, or this free service will begin to cost them. Students who bring one back late can expect a $10 per our late fee. Lost, stolen, or broken laptops can land students more costly penalties.

The media library also lends camcorders, zoom recorders, DVDs and other multimedia to students, all with the same policies and terms as the laptops.

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