iPad Lending Issues: Part 1

For my own part, I’m a PC.  No Macs are allowed in my home and no, we do not allow our friends or family to play their iPods on our computers for fear that their Mac/Apple device will infect our computers with countless Apple products and iTunes accounts.  I am a PC and Windows 7 is my friend.  However, the university I work for just received several donated iPads, 5 of which will be coming to my library so we can start an iPad lending program.  It is amazing, I suddenly love Apple and iPads are fantastic!

My director charged me with the responsibility of creating a lending policy for the iPads.  Prior to writing the final draft of the policy, I have contacted multiple librarians from MIT, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to learn from their experience.  Below are the primary issues I found from interviewing other librarians and potential solutions for those issues.

Late Fees: 

After reviewing several different university lending policies, there are two main late fee formats that universities use: 1) Incrementally, charge fines ($5 – $20) per hour/day until the iPad is returned or paid for (which ever comes first).  2) Boston College O’Neil Library charges one large fine ($100) when the iPad is late and 28 days later charge the amount required to replace the iPad.  After discussing these polices with librarians who have already implemented them, surprisingly the second method is preferred.

According to the librarians I interviewed, the incremental fee method tends to create havoc on billing and a significant amount of paperwork for the university.  Alternatively, having one fee followed by the fee for replacing the iPad has comparatively little paperwork and because the fee is so steep ($100), patrons are rarely late.  In addition to the steep fee, some universities apply a unspoken 24 hour grace period between when the iPad is due to be returned and when the large fee is applied.  This grace period reduces the threat of significant backlash regarding the steep fee.  Universities using incremental fees also reported having some leniency with those fees.

iPad Integrity:

The MIT librarian I interviewed reported that maintaining the integrity of the iPads is sometimes a challenge.  While experimenting with and using the iPad, students will inevitably change the settings, attempts to load their own apps, modify the appearance and customize the iPad to fit their needs.  To be fair, this is part of the reason a university library wants to lend iPads.  Universities want students to experiment with the iPads and become comfortable using them.  However, we also need to protect the iPads.

Solutions!  Some universities lock the iPads and remove them from all iTunes accounts so that students cannot modify them.  Other universities allow students to create their on iTunes accounts and link the iPads to these personal accounts and the students are aware that the university will erase all settings upon return.  Other universities only allow their iPads to be checked out for short periods (example: 4 hours) and students must stay within the library to use the iPad – not much can happen in four hours.  How the issue of iPad integrity is dealt with will depend on the focus and needs of the individual institution.  I did find a very helpful article by Sara Q. Thompson on iPad policies and it mapped out a productive solution for restoring the iPad to its original form.  At this time, my library does is still waiting on its iPads, so I have yet to test this personally.  However, below is Thompson’s process:

  1. One computer serves as the central hub for the iPads (recharging station located here as well).
  2. Use an iTunes Gift Cards to create an iTunes account for the library.
  3. Utilize Apple’s App Volume Purchase Program to facilitate app purchasing for your institution (this program is intended for libraries specifically).
  4. Set up your iPads with the apps, programs and the layout desired by the institution.
  5. Device Backups can be managed through iTunes.
  6. When an iPad is returned, use the “Erase all content and settings” option in the settings menu to wipe out any history left by the patron.
  7. Use the Backup stored in your iTunes account to restore each iPad to its original form chosen by the library.

Obviously, if your institution prefers to give student a blank iPad and allow them to experiment fully, then the “Backup” option would not be as important.  From my research thus far, I prefer providing students with an iPad set up with Apps chosen by the library.  In Thompson’s article she reported that upon returning the iPad, users advised that they primarily used the iPad for Safari, Facebook and two reported that they looked at all the apps.  iPads are primarily designed for fun (there is no USB, most applications are for entertainment, Angry Birds, etc.).  If students are given a blank iPad, then the university does not have the chance to introduce students to other avenues for information and other work based uses for the iPad.

Sources:

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Comments
3 Responses to “iPad Lending Issues: Part 1”
  1. oliver says:

    cute read! Thanks you mentioning me.

  2. Hi,

    Have you implemented the library iPad loan program? We are looking to implement a iPad loan program at our library and i would love to discuss your successes and challenges. Thanks for an informative article!

    • The biggest challenge (thus far) has been how slow everything moves. I am scheduled to go through iPad2 training on Nov 4 and we requested 10 iPad2 units. We might receive them (if all the stars align properly) around mid November. Once the program gets off the ground, I will post a follow up report on our findings.

      We currently have a lending program for digital video cameras and we have had relatively no issues. With the video cameras, the late fee is 5$ per day and the students are really good about returning them on time (in perfect condition). Our library is small, only three people check items in and out and I am certain that each student is advised of the fee at the time of check out. When students are aware of the consequences, they are really great about returning things on time.

      Fees were a common issue for every librarian I interviewed. Fee issues included: complaints about fees, patrons claiming they weren’t aware of the fees, billing/systems issues with processing fees. I think much of this can be resolved if a) the fee system you choose is similar to the fee systems you already have in place (this is good for patrons and for whomever processes the fees) and b) the check out process includes the patron signing a form that makes the fee system VERY visible to the patron. If they sign their name beside the fee amount, it is hard for them to be unaware of the consequences.

      Thanks for reading!!! Let me know if you have any questions, I am happy to help!

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