The Library at the University of Salford has run a laptop loan service for its students since 2010. The lockers provide secure storage as well as battery charging.
Initially this was run via a staff desk with lockers manually operated by staff. In 2012 the lockers were fitted with RFID locks and students have since been able to issue and return the laptops themselves by swiping their university ID card.
Rather than connecting to our Library Management System our existing locker system came with its own software for managing laptop loans. There are a number of issues with this.
i. The software isn't fit for purpose. It was designed for use in Gyms or swimming pools and as such it's a locker management system rather than a system for managing the contents of lockers. Although it allocates a locker to an individual it has no knowledge of whether the contents of the locker (in this case a laptop) are either present or absent at any stage of the process.
ii. The software is adequate for keeping track of who has a locker at the present moment (which is about all you need in a gym) however it is unable to provide adequate reporting of past locker use by individuals (important for trying to track down missing equipment or establishing when equipment was damaged) or to provide high level management information about locker use (this is a very well used service, however we are only able to prove that by spending hours exporting and re-processing the inadequate data provided by the software).
iii. Libraries run on Library Management Systems (LMS) — and one of the things an LMS is very good at is keeping track of physical stock. Even if the existing software was adequate it would still be the case that it was duplicating something we already have. At present there is an additional staff overhead taken up with the management of the server, setting up and managing a real time data feed, troubleshooting issues with individual user accounts, creating reports, creating and training administrators etc.
We are currently looking to expand the service, taking it into areas without a continuous staff presence, this means that the ability to track usage accurately is now a priority.