Start Your Own Mobile Device-Lending Program

Lending out mobile devices, such as e-readers, tablets, and laptops, is an exciting way to draw in new patrons. But acquiring, caring for, and making devices available for public use may seem challenging and overwhelming. At our September webinar, we invited Stephen Tafoya from the Garfield County Library District in Rifle, Colorado to share his experience with device check-out, including Kindles, iPads, and Google Chromebooks.

Kindle Kit

In every webinar, we ask our audience a few questions to get an idea of how much they know about a topic and what they're already doing. I was excited to see that many of the attendees had some sort of device-lending program and check out things such as Go Pro cameras, LeapPads, and high-end video editing software.

A Circulating Kindle Program

Stephen started by discussing the Garfield County Library's Kindle program, as it was the first device lending program he was involved with. Each Kindle comes with its own bag (with the name of the library district slickly monogrammed on it) and a few other accessories to help improve the borrowing experience for the patron.

Stephen had a few tips on collection development for the Kindles:

  • Load up a few Kindles with titles by genre, such as science fiction, mystery, romance, and so on, but also do a few "general" Kindles with popular or best-selling titles.  
  • Frequent the "free" section of e-book distributors, but do your research and weed out any poor titles.
  • Coordinate your e-book collections with book club events or programs happening in your community.

Security and Privacy

Stephen explained how Garfield County controls e-book purchasing on the Kindles and some of the challenges with using the Amazon platform. One-Click is Amazon's super simple method of making purchases on its site. You don't need to re-enter your password every time you make a purchase, which is great for consumers, but not so easy to manage for libraries. When you make the purchase, you have to take off the credit card associated with the account. If you forget and lend out the e-reader, somebody can make a bunch of extra purchases on the Kindle without needing a password.

If you don't want to take that risk, Stephen recommends using Amazon's Whispercast, which is a free tool for institutions such as schools or libraries for managing Kindles. Stephen said that Garfield County doesn't use Whispercast right now because there are a lot more restrictions and licensing, but the library is exploring it as an option. 

Borrowing Policies

Patrons borrow Kindles on a first-come, first-serve basis for three-week periods. There are no holds placed on Kindles. Stephen says that if people ask, library staff members usually respond by saying that they need to do some maintenance on the Kindles (software upgrades, loading new titles, and so forth) before the devices can be checked out again. E-readers are not loaned out to patrons under 18 nor to libraries outside of Garfield County. 

Lending Out Chromebooks and iPads

iPads for borrowing

The Garfield County Library also checks out Chromebooks as well as iPads to patrons. Stephen said that these devices are low cost to maintain, but still meet the technology needs for the community. He referred to the iPads as the "it" technology right now, especially for kids. Both devices are available to people of all ages, but are only for in-library use (meaning patrons can't take them home).

Setting Up iPads for Borrowing/Check-Out Policy

To get the iPads ready for public use, Stephen used a third-party vendor called This company offers a service specifically tailored to public libraries with software that erases personal data, lockable charging docks, durable cases, and more.

Stephen also created a staff user guide and conducted some staff trainings on the iPads before making the devices available to the public. He wanted to empower the Garfield County branches to tailor the iPads to their communities with specific apps or bookmarks.

Managing Chromebooks

Stephen admits that the Chromebooks aren't as popular as the iPads, but he said that they are easier to manage. The Chromebooks are highly customizable, so you can fill them up with library-related software and web properties. On great thing about the Chromebooks is that they have a timer that shuts the system down after a certain amount of time. If your loaner policy permits a certain number of hours of use, this is a great management tool.

A Note About Hygiene

One interesting question that came up among our audience was on hygiene. One librarian remarked that her library was hesitant to lend out devices due to this very issue. Much like books, devices can come back, well, pretty gross! Stephen said library staff has encountered carrying bags covered in cat hair, dirty screens, and so on. He recommends keeping a "tech hygiene kit" on hand at the library with screen wipes, fabric rollers, and Febreze. Oh, and don't forget to check to see if anything is missing, such as a charging cable. Take an inventory of every returned device kit.   

Stephen covered a lot more about lending out devices in this webinar, so watch the full archive to learn even more.

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