How've the Notebook Loan Pools Been Doing?

by Noel Laam
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To complement the inauguration of the campus wireless LAN, two notebook loan pools have been set up since last March and maintained by the Facilities Management Office (FMO) and the Library (LIB) respectively to lend compatible notebook computers to our students. With such a notebook in hand, students would be connected to the campus network and hence the Internet in most of the public areas on campus. The popularity of the notebooks reigned all, and below is a brief account of how the loan pools have been doing.

FMO

There were altogether 200 notebooks for loan to students, and they could keep one for 24 hours except for the weekend when they could hold it till the following Monday. The frequent long queue outside the loan pool counter was quite a scene and it simply demonstrated that the current provision was far from sufficient to meet the growing demand. It was an interesting phenomenon that the penalty charges collected on Mondays and the day after the Public Holidays outnumbered the amount collected on the other weekdays - students would rather pay for the overdue charge of HK$40 per day in order to keep the notebook for several days.

Statistics showed that students from 24 departments have used the service and almost half of them came from the EE, MEEM, BST and CM. Of all eligible students about one-fifth had at least borrowed the notebook once. Most of them commented that it would be desirable if the loan period could be longer, the coverage of wireless LAN extended to laboratories and Amenities Building, and more software added to the recovery CD for wider applications.

In response to students' feedback and in order to improve the situation, some actions/decisions were taken/made accordingly:

  1. 60 wireless LAN cards were immediately acquired for loan to students having their own notebooks to alleviate the surging demand. Besides, 200 sets of new Pentium III notebooks would be purchased to add to the existing loan pool.

  2. Wireless LAN was later extended to cover the student canteen and Late Reading Room to meet the demand, and coverage to Chinese Civilization Centre (CCIV), laboratories and common rooms was recommended. Popular software might be added as well to the recovery CD to satisfy the students' needs.

  3. The existing counter for running the loan pool would be refurbished to increase the space necessary for efficient operation, and flexible manpower deployment, including employing some student helpers, would be adopted.

To allow a higher turnover, the present loan period will be maintained for the time being so that more students can use the service.

LIB

Another notebook loan pool of a smaller scale was run by the LIB to enable students to get connected to the campus network inside the LIB. There were 50 notebooks for loan to both full-time and part-time students. They had to return the computer within the same day and could use it only inside the LIB. The average loan rate was close to a pretty 100 loan/day, which was quite encouraging. Again, behind all the popularity lay some familiar problems such as limited notebooks and batteries, extra workload for staff, insufficient software etc. It was decided that 30 wireless LAN cards would be added and the 50 Pentium II notebooks on loan to academic colleagues for the wireless LAN pilot test would be collected and added to the loan pool, some more software, including Chinese ones, would be acquired, and re-arrangement of work would be made to absorb the extra workload.

The overwhelming success of the two notebook loan pools was an eminent indicator of the need for the campus wireless LAN, and the CSC will continue to work hand in hand with the FMO and LIB to provide the quality service being sought after.