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Palo Alto Library pioneers a Chromebooks check-out program

Posted by Monique le Conge, Department Director, Palo Alto Library

Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Monique le Conge, Department Director for the Palo Alto Library, a municipal library funded by the City of Palo Alto, California. Join Monique on September 12th at 1pm PST for a webinar via Google+ Hangout On Air to learn how you can replicate these successes at your organization and ask her questions directly during a live Q&A.

The Palo Alto Library has been providing our community with resources to enrich lives since the early 1890’s. With five libraries located at the heart of Silicon Valley, we witness the role technology plays in advancing life-long education, and we actively make it our mission to facilitate learning in the community by providing the latest tools. In an effort to abide to by our mission, we launched a Chromebooks lending program in November 2011, becoming one of the first libraries to do so.

We launched the Chromebooks program after piloting a few of the devices as an alternative to the laptop lending program that we developed more than five years ago. The old laptop program gave library patrons the ability to use laptops in one of our branches for up to two hours. While it was helpful for some, the program didn’t provide our library patrons with the time and flexibility they needed to explore the Web. Additionally, the administration was concerned about the security of patrons storing local files on the machines.

Today, members of our community, both young and old, are able to check out one of our 60 Chromebooks and take it home for up to seven days to research material for school reports, educate themselves on health matters, or simply watch videos. The possibilities are endless.

What’s great about the Chromebooks is that they are simple for our patrons to use, regardless of their technology experience, and they’re small enough for anyone to easily carry. Users can save their documents and favorite apps to their Google accounts, so that they can retrieve their information at another time from any Chromebook they check out or from any device running Chrome – like an iPhone or Android tablet. And all user data is wiped out after individual use, protecting each user’s privacy. But perhaps my favorite thing about the Chromebooks is that they don’t require any manual software updates or maintenance. Due to shrinking budgets and reduced library staff, IT maintenance is something we pay close attention to when providing new technologies to our patrons, and the Chromebook program has been a breeze to manage.

Our lending program has become so popular that we are expanding the program to include all of the library branches in the coming year. We’ve also received several phone calls from other library systems who are interested in adopting a Chromebooks lending program. We’re thrilled to be able to provide members of our community with Chromebooks because we know they’ll be able to use a Chromebook to grow and learn no matter what their level of technology experience is.