Blogger Digital Content Task Force

Can I borrow a Mac?

Our Youth Services department recently underwent a freshening up. After reconfiguring our floor space and thinking about how it is used we decided to purchase several MacBook PROs for afterschool use. We had been circulating e-readers and tablets so this was a natural next step for us.

We made an initial purchase of eight laptops, and the kids went wild! We rolled out this new service a year ago and it has proven to be so popular that we had to invest in six more just to keep up with the demand.

So, how does this work you wonder? First, the laptops can only be used by children in grades 6-12th in our Youth Services department, they never leave the library. All one needs is a library card in good standing, a valid student ID and they are ready to borrow one. We ask each child to read and sign an agreement form that clearly states out the laptops may be used and we take a moment to discuss the terms of the agreement.

Our staff quickly realized this was an excellent opportunity to have more interaction with the children who are borrowing them. Not only was this a great way to learn their names, we now have the chance to talk to them about school, books, movies, etc. while we are preparing their laptop for use.

Everyone who registers to use a laptop is entered into a database. If there is a behavior infraction while using a laptop it is noted in the database. With over a thousand users, we have had only a few issues. Remarkably, none of these laptops have been damaged in anyway.

Each laptop comes loaded with a variety of popular applications kids really want. iPhoto, Garage Band, iMovie and Scratch 1.4 are a few that are in frequent use. Also popular is Face Time and Photo Booth. One might think these laptops are being borrowed for social media and gaming purposes, but I mostly observe them being used as a vehicle for creativity.

Recently, we began to offer technology classes specifically geared to children in grades 4 and up. We’ve held classes featuring programs such as Garage Band and iMovie where children created their own music or movies. Other well attended sessions featured Raspberry Pi; the credit card sized computer that can connect to a television and a keyboard and has quite a bit of functionality for something so small and Ardunio; an open source electronics platform that makes building interactive objects, such as robots more accessible.

It’s interesting to see just how adept these young people are with these types of programs and how eager they are to learn even more. If you have reached out to this age group I am interested to hear what you are doing, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I am always looking for the next big thing to offer.

 Allison Santos, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ
ALSC Digital Content Task Force

 

One comment

  1. Melissa Henderson

    Thanks for sharing your experience with providing Macs for in-library use. We’re just getting ready to start a similar program with students up to grade 8/age 13 (there’s a different program/process for HS students). I was encouraged to read that you’ve had little trouble with this service.

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