Chromebooks at the GC Library

Some may have noticed an uptick in laptop use at the GC library. This may be a result of the update to student printing from laptops, which allows for a  third-party vendor to receive files and transfer them to GC servers for printing. Although this new IT-supported service is a popular alternative to logging into desktop computers, it still does not resolve the issue of a small number of laptops available for checkout.

Laptop lending programs have mixed reviews. Research studies* on library laptop lending suggest that mandatory laptop lending deters use or classroom participation, while opt-in programs ensure use to the highest capacity. Many universities with predominantly undergraduate populations have defaulted to an opt-in policy, which aids in the tension developed from penalizing students who break, lose, or feel overwhelmed by equipment loans. As a result, students who opt-in have a sense of responsibility for their choice and abuse is less likely.

At CUNY, these issues of mandatory lending are not in our purview, as budgets do not allow for a distribution of laptops for each full-time student. At the GC library, we’ve budgeted under the student tech fee, and administered by the IT department, five MacBooks and nine Dell computers. Two-week lending periods with three possible renewals are open to GC students only.
With such small numbers of two-week-loan laptops, how does the student body cope? Since most on-campus computer use with technical support is desktop-driven, the limited number of four computer classrooms in the building, makes for an alternative to desktop use a priority. Which is why we have introduced the Chromebooks.

Why Chromebooks?
The Graduate Center Library is the hub of CUNY’s scholarly production. The library’s print collection primarily supports the Graduate Center curriculum, while the library’s digital resources, active reference and instruction services, and robust resource sharing support faculty and graduate research. As increased materials are accessible via electronic format, whether ebooks from our 35+ ebook collections, articles accessible electronically, or video-streaming, we’d like to supply easy to navigate and light-weight mobile options for students seeking to incorporate digital resources into their library use. In addition to the lack of a library-coordinated computer space, access to twenty-six chromebooks will act as a supplement to computer classroom instruction. Students will be able to attend instruction sessions after circulating a device providing flexibility for instruction.

Since Summer 2015, plans have been in the works to purchase 26 Chromebooks with GRTI funds, an internal grant for technology and equipment administered through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The Chromebook and its cloud-based software was chosen because of its ease of use, requiring little technical knowledge and servicing.

Devices have been split between a workshop cart for library-led workshops, and the circulation desk.  To check-out a Chromebook go to the library circulation desk on the first floor of the library. Circulation is limited to GC students, faculty, and staff.

* See this Zotero library on laptop lending programs:

About the Author

Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is an Assistant Professor and Head of Reference at the Graduate Center Library.