Case study interview conducted with Ann Byrne – Liaison services for library and environment and Eoin O Sullivan – Audio and visual Service (IT services) on the implementation of the LapSafe® Diplomat™ LMS laptop loan lockers.
Set on 42 acres of wooded ground, only a 10-minute walk from Cork City Centre, Queen’s College Cork, now University College Cork was established in 1845 after a long campaign for a higher education institution in Munster. 115 students enrolled in QCC when the university first opened its gates in 1849. UCC Library is a contemporary university library providing a meeting place and offers a diverse range of study and research environments, including a creative zone, exhibition area, skills centre and library studio as well as the Assistive Technology lab. As UCC library now serves a student population of 21,000, management and staff decided to introduce a self-service laptop loaning system for the students with the help of LapSafe®.
Did you loan out laptops to students prior to implementing an automated system?
Ann - A number of years ago IT services had 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™ self-service lockers?
Ann - The service had been very successful in other university libraries and our Student’s Union were very keen to introduce this service for students in UCC. Implementation of the service was very much a collaboration between the IT services, the Library and 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.
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.
Ann - 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 really well with their library management system, Sierra, which we also use.
Eoin - 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 pretty 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 in 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 before hand 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.
Ann - The first unit was installed in 2016 and most recently we added to that installation in April 2018. Last year we loaned 33,000 laptops to students.
How has the after-sales customer support been from LapSafe?
Eoin - 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 a 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 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 words of advice for colleges or universities thinking of implementing automated laptop loans?
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.