There is evidence to demonstrate that libraries allowing their patrons to use laptops in the library premises has a positive impact to attract them to the libraries. In the developed countries, laptop usage has undergone a dramatic change, mainly in the academic environment. Since technology allowed the newer laptops to become lighter in weight, students are more willing to carry them to the library leading to a constant growth in the use of these devices. The fact was noted and subsequently, academic libraries like the Gleason Library at the University of Rochester, USA planned renovation projects which aimed to make the library spaces more suitable for the intensive use of new technologies. As a result, collaborative study spaces were created for both individual and group work, furniture was rearranged, a robust wired and wireless infrastructure accomodated to support the use of laptops and other digital technologies. These amenities were welcomed by laptop users mainly by students working on group-based assignments and brought a substantial growth in the number of users. In addition, it was observed that such space attracted more students to the library and it became one of the most desirable places to study.
Furthermore, in order to cater for the use of laptops which gained popularity at a faster rate throughout the country, some libraries like the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) are checking out laptops to their patrons. They have set up ‘ Laptop check out procedures’ to answer to any programmatic and policy questions and drawn a ‘ Laptop check out policy and patron agreement’ form to be duly filled by users which binds them to the effective use of the laptops without hampering or causing any damage to the materials. Government issued ID cards with current photographs along with the library cards are compulsory (for security reasons) to check out a laptop. A fine is stipulated in case of late check ins or violation of the rules in the policy. Whats more, these procedures and policies are shared equally between more libraries which want to check out laptops to its users.
The laptop use in the academic libraries in Mauritius has followed a similar trend. More students are bringing laptops into the libraries. However, they are compelled to use them in existing traditional library spaces. The amenities such as technology infrastructure, aesthetics and rearrangement of furniture have never received any serious consideration. Development of policies and strategies to accommodate tech-savvy users are unfortunately delayed in the local library spaces. In view of the expected growth in the number of laptop users in the future ( students and academic members) it is imperative that authorities consider this revolution in the academic world of learning as a priority. Moreover, in order to market the library services and at the same time solve the ever-growing space issues, laptop check outs could be given some serious thought as an innovative incentive to attract the users. The University of Hong Kong libraries ‘Laptop Loaning Programme’ may be a model to emulate (http://lib.hku.hk/techsupport/laptoploan.html). The transformation of library spaces need to be ultimately included in the concept of today’ s academic libraries in the local context. Ways to reshape and rethink services for more response from the users should be furthermore considered so that the objectives of the libraries to support learning and research of students and academic members are met with much satisfaction and less drawbacks.
1. Briden, Judi. 2008. Snapshots of laptop use in an academic library. University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, USA
2. Laptop check out programs. Available from: http://techsoupforlibraries.org/files/