by Randy Dagnon
Lately several librarians have asked me about using laptops for their public access computers. So I thought I would provide a list of pros and cons.
- Portability: Patrons are not confined to a desk or table. A laptop can be used at a chair or sofa in a reading area, at a table, or in a study room. This is also nice for groups who need a computer but find it inconvenient or annoying to other patrons if they have to gather around a station in a regular computer area.
- A laptop can be held at the desk as a “special or limited use” computer. Examples being patron use for on line job applications or test taking.
- A laptop takes up less space, making it a good alternative if space is at a premium in your library.
- Cost: Laptops cost more to purchase. Should repairs be needed they are more expensive to repair. Depending on the use, you will get about 300 to 500 charging cycles from a battery before it needs to be replaced.
- Battery drain: Where a desktop can run 24/7 a laptop can only do so if it is plugged in. If patrons are using a laptop on battery power, they will need to be recharged during the day.
- Generally laptops are not as powerful as desktops. This may not be much of an issue though, as most laptops you can purchase today will meet the needs of most of your patrons.
- Accessibility: For some a laptop display, pointing device and keyboard can be less than user friendly. This can be especially true for elderly users or those with physical impairments.
- A smaller display: When it comes to monitors most users feel that bigger is better.
- More staff involvement: Staff will be involved in handing out the laptop to patrons they need to see that batteries remain charged.
- Security: Laptops are smaller and more easily stolen.
I don’t intend for this to be an all inclusive list and there may other pros or cons that I haven’t thought of and some of those that I have listed may not be important to your library. Are public access laptops a good choice for your library? Weigh the pros and cons and decide what is best in your circumstances.
(from March 2010)