Google has recently improved their laptops known as Chromebooks and desktops known as Chrome Boxes. These computers run only the Chrome web browser. Users can work with almost all web sites (including Gmail and the suite of Google Apps), as well as a very good web-based version of Microsoft Office. Additional apps are available for functions like image editing.
Chromebooks/Chrome Boxes are less costly than traditional laptops or thin client computers. Logging in to these devices takes less than 5 seconds. Both the operating system and the Chrome browser are automatically updated without any intervention by users or LTS. They also have built-in virus protection. Given that many (though not all) patrons who borrow circulating laptops from LTS do not require special Mac-based or Windows-based applications, we could significantly increase the size of the circulating laptop collection by using less expensive laptops.
Completed <September 2014>:
After an initial pilot, LTS purchased Chromebooks for our circulating collection (from the Clapp library). The Chromebooks have been heavily used by students with few complaints leaving our smaller Mac/Windows laptop collection available to those students who need software the Chromebooks cannot run.
In addition, Chromeboxes replaced the windows computers in the Clapp Reference room. The data on this location showed that it operated mainly as a quick email, document review and printing location on campus. These functions are all well-served by the Chromeboxes, which as a bonus offer access to library visitors (including family, friends and alumnae) through their own Google accounts.
We will be reviewing the usage of other library and email spaces when machines come up for replacement to determine whether Chromeboxes would be appropriate replacements.
Update <February 2015>:
We have expanded the Chromebook collection twice to accommodate growing interest in the use of these devices.
Confusion about printing from Chrome OS (color/B&W, duplex/simplex) was addressed through the recreation of the Google CloudPrint queues. The initial results show significantly fewer unintended simplex and color printouts.