Case Study

Smart Lockers: Q&As with University College Cork

Denise Crouch

Denise Crouch

Smart Lockers Success: Q&As with University College Cork

The award-winning, University College Cork welcomes approximately 24,000 students each year. Offering an array of courses and qualifications, the university now ranks in the top 1.1% of universities in the world.

To enhance its students' learning experience, the university has created a unique, contemporary library space, boasting a creative zone, exhibition area, skills centre, studio, and an Assistive Technology Lab.

As the student population continues to grow, the university management team decided to introduce a self-service, automated laptop-loaning solution for the students.

Here, we caught up with Ann Byrne – Liaison Services for the library and environment, and Eoin O’Sullivan – Audio and Visual Service (IT Services) to discuss how and why they chose the LapSafe® Diplomat™ LMS Smart Lockers.

Did you loan out laptops to students before implementing an automated system?

Ann"Several years ago IT services introduced a manual laptop loaning service. I’m not sure why but it never really took off. We felt that it might work more successfully in the library as students were already used to the concept of borrowing materials here and the footfall in the library is also very high."

Why did UCC decide to implement the LapSafe® Diplomat LMS™ Smart Lockers?

Ann“The service had been very successful in other university libraries and our Student’s Union were very keen to introduce this service to students in UCC. Implementation of the service was very much a collaboration between the IT services, the Library and the Student’s Union. Following discussions the Student’s Union applied for and received funding from the Student Charges & Fees Forum, a fund for improving student service”.

“Choosing LapSafe® for us was the easiest part. The LapSafe® Diplomat was the one that everyone was recommending, we visited Maynooth University, and they were singing its praises. Maynooth also mentioned that it worked well with their library management system, Sierra, which we also use”.

Eoin“We went to tender for the project after speaking to other colleges who had implemented it already. Dublin City University was the first place that was visited. As we went to tender, we needed to include other competitors, however, LapSafe® stood out from the others due to the competitiveness of price, the units’ functionality and the customer service support that was offered. The sales process was straight forward and the contact with LapSafe® was good. The lockers are really low maintenance, and the functionality was great, exactly what we were looking for.”

What laptops did you choose to loan out?

Eoin“The IT Services Dept. decided on Chromebooks for the students, I think this is what has made it work so well as they are simple to use and are cloud-based. The Chromebooks are ideal for a laptop loaning system because they self-update and all the students’ data is saved instantaneously and automatically. Unreturned laptops can be disabled remotely when required, a message appears on the laptop to return it to the library and this unique management feature prevents the laptops from going missing or getting stolen.”

How many devices do you now loan throughout the university?

Ann“120 devices are loaned out across the campuses. We have 72 bays and laptops available for self-service here at Boole and 24 at Brookfield. Twelve waist-height bays here at Boole are reserved and available with full-sized laptops for students who require disability support.”

How was the delivery and installation of the Diplomat LMS™?

Ann“The LapSafe® delivery guys were very nice and really easy to deal with, they were really professional and got the job done quickly, it was very seamless. We booked the electricians to be here beforehand to prepare the space so there weren’t any issues when it came to installing the units. LapSafe® told us exactly what they needed completed prior to the installation and we made sure it was done and ready when they arrived. We also future-proofed it, as we asked them to put in two extra plug points so we could expand the service if we needed to. Two laptops that had been borrowed by students within minutes of the installation being completed. There didn’t seem any need for instructions as they just followed what it said on the screen. It was that easy.”

Eoin“Where we positioned the lockers worked really well for us, they were supposed to go into the creative zone but having them placed directly in front of the really busy lifts has worked great as it has a high footfall. We use the availability dashboard if we are away from the units. It is really good for checking on the busy times of the day and for seeing at a glance how many laptops are available. If there is a problem, Matt at LapSafe® support is always really very good, he will always get back to us as soon as he can if we have a problem. We did have a problem with a locker door a few months back and we were given confirmation really quickly that someone would be over and replace it for us.”

What do you like the most about the Diplomat LMS™ units?

Eoin“One of the best things is the convenience of it for us and the students to use. We limit them to 4 hours of borrowing time, so they don’t need the chargers and that works well. As I mentioned they are Chromebooks with around an 8-hour plus charge, but we still like to have them back after 4 hours, as this means they don’t take as long to get back to full charge again as very often the next person is already waiting.

Ann“Everyone was surprised and delighted as to how popular the new service was. We all think that students like to bring their own laptops to use but that isn’t always the case and of course, not all students have one, so this system is perfect, and it doesn’t discriminate."

Do you have any advice for institutions thinking of implementing a Smart Locker?

Ann“The two things I would say to others is to plan ahead! We were so pleased that we had arranged at the beginning of the journey to add a couple of extra plugs next to the installed units, so we were able to add another couple of units at a later date. Look at the location too, it needs to be seen and in a busy area, not at the bottom of a dark stairwell. Its location is one of the reasons it works so well. We have lots of visitors from other colleges and universities locally and abroad and the laptop loan system is one of the first things we show them. We are really proud of the units and the service we offer our students.”

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