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20 New Laptops Available for In-Library Checkout Offer Faster Computer Access for Patrons

The busy Library Center and Brentwood Branch Library each have added 10 new laptop computers that visitors can check out for in-library use.

This is the first time the Springfield-Greene County Library District has offered laptops on loan. The goal is to keep up with the increasing demand for Internet access by library visitors, especially during the struggling economy.

“Library patrons will benefit from less waiting, and more mobility and privacy from being able to move the Chromebook (laptop) throughout the Library,” said Planning and Development Librarian Gay Wilson.

The 20 laptops were purchased as a pilot project with a $7,485 Technology Mini-Grant from the Missouri State Library and a Library match of $2,495.

How they work:

  • The Google Chromebook is a new type of computer – lightweight, fast, easy to use and secure.
  • A Chromebook is a mix between a laptop and a cloud client, and runs Google Chrome OS. It is meant to be used online and is based on free cloud-based applications including Gmail and Google docs.
  • Patrons age 18 and older may check them out for two hours per person per day, and can use them anywhere in the library building.
  • Chromebooks have an eight-hour battery life and do not require a plug-in.
  • Patrons can sign in with their Google account, or as a library guest, and the Web is automatically available. Chromebooks run Web apps that allow them to create and share documents. Patrons can access electronic information and their information “in the cloud.” Once patrons log out, none of their personal data can be accessed by other users.

Many Greene County residents who don’t have home Internet access use the library public computers at the 10 branches to do online business – pay bills, apply for jobs, take an online course or stay in touch with relatives. The Library provides free Wi-Fi and access to public computers at no charge, in keeping with its mission of providing access to worldwide electronic resources for all citizens through technology.

The Library Center has 31 public computers; the Brentwood Branch has 16 computers, and it’s not uncommon for two to 10 people to be waiting in line to use one, Wilson said. However, the two libraries have run out of room to add more stationary computers, Wilson said.
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Some 4,865 patrons accessed the Library Center’s 31 public computers in June 2012, alone. About 2,135 patrons used the Brentwood Branch’s 16 public computers in the same period. Between June and August 2011, an estimated 23,529 people used the public computers at the Library Center and the Brentwood Branch, alone.

If the project is successful, Chromebooks could be purchased for in-library checkout at the other branches, Wilson said.

And looking ahead at future library construction, Wilson said, “If Chromebooks are successful, it would change how the Library will design the space needed for designated computer and online catalog use.”

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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