Tuesday, April 25, 2017


The Library Technology Conference for 2017 was once again full of interesting and useful content. This year SPPL was represented by the following sessions:

Innovation at Work: Artists, Entrepreneurs and Jobseekers in the Makerspace - Amanda Feist, Andrea Herman and Xenia Hernandez

Createch/SPNN: Partnering to Engage Youth with Media in Saint Paul Libraries - Erica Redden with contributions from Alaina Kozma

Here are some highlights from other sessions:

Circulating Laptops - Brent Palmer, Iowa City Public Library

In 2016, the Iowa City Library started circulating laptops for at-home use. IAPL has only one large branch downtown. They wanted to give more options to patrons who had trouble getting to the library or needed more computer time than 2 hours a day. According to Pew Research Center, 10% of Americans are "cell phone dependent" and 20% do not own laptops or PCs.

Laptops help patrons with important tasks that would be difficult to do on a mobile device:

  • Applying for jobs
  • Legal case documents
  • Learning new skills
  • Taxes

The library was deciding between Windows and Chrome OS due to ease of use and price point of $500, but decided Chromebooks were too hard to use without Internet access.

ICPL recently started circulating Wi-fi hotspots as well from Mobile Beacon. The price is good - $5 per hotspot, $10/month unlimited data, but the Sprint coverage can be spotty. They circulate iPads in-library only with apps geared to kids.

Brent’s tips for circulating laptops:

  • Offer drop-in tech assistance.
  • Teach patrons to save their work with Google Drive.
  • Kiosks may lessen staff time, but they are very expensive ($33,000 not including laptops) and geared more to in-house circulation.
  • Have a sturdy laptop case - they are moving to nylon as the faux-leather ones didn’t hold up.
  • Use Clonezilla to save the desktop image & install on all computers so you can set the laptops back to a default with a simple "restore this laptop" button.
  • Refresh the laptop upon return with a physical and software cleaning. Don’t check it in until the process is completed. Keep a copy of the disk image on every computer.
  • Update software every few months. Place a hold on all the computers with a staff library card and update as they come in.

ICPL has had 301 laptop circs since March 2016 and only 3 laptops were not returned. One laptop had a cracked bezel, which they didn’t charge the patron for.

Slides for this presentation are available here

iLAB: Year One - Mary Wussow, Holly Carlson, Shawn Foster-Huot, Dakota County Library
ILab Year One:

Dakota County Libraries iLab, a makerspace for all ages, opened July 2016. Their use of desktop computers was decreasing, so they decided to repurpose their computer lab.

Steps to creating iLab:

  • Created a team including Reference, IT, Circulation, Administration.
  • Did lengthy research on the community including an environmental scan.
  • Had a walk-through with Risk Management.
  • Created a liability waiver and had legal department look at it.
  • Sent out a Surveymonkey survey of the community for equipment ideas.

The Dakota County Library service area had an active quilting group, so they purchased a fabric cutter and quilting software. Digitization of photos and slides is also very popular. There are many homeschoolers, so they decided to make it an all-ages space that families can work in together.  

Learning teams were created for each activity. Teams were responsible for:

  • Unboxing equipment
  • Training staff
  • Making user guides
  • Making usage policy
They discovered that one size did not fit all when it comes to learning. Each team worked a little differently. 9-10 AM became a regular time for staff to meet and share tips.

The staff person in iLab should be able to get a patron started - if they need more help, Dakota County offers a “Book a Librarian” service.

What they have learned so far:

  • Figure out who you are trying to reach.
  • Get Administration & funders on board with your vision - align with agency goals
  • The Makerspaces & the Participatory Library Facebook page has good equipment recommendations.
  • Evanced Spaces is not ideal for booking equipment - patrons don’t always receive emails. They are looking for new software.
  • Give up what you can to make it happen - certain tasks assigned to Westcott branch
were given to  other branches.
  • Word of mouth is the most effective publicity.
  • Avoid consumables - they get lost too easily (e,g., Legos).
  • Avoid equipment that has risk to safety.
  • Find out what you staff is  interested in learning.
  • The NextEngine 3D scanner may have been too complicated for its cost.
  • Made sure to have patron training on evenings and weekends.

Plans for Phase 2:

  • Community partnerships
  • Beyond the basics classes
  • Volunteers
  • Mobile Maker Kits

All of fears they had for issues coming up haven't occured - physical injury, damaged equipment, 3D printed weapons. They have been able to offer consumables for free so far, so they don’t have to charge patrons for mistakes. Patrons are saying they have come to the library for the first time in years.

Handouts are available here.

Photos are available here.

--Andrea H.

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