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Outlet Supply and Demand

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
January 12, 2011

When Dimond Library was renovated in 1998, desktop computers were the norm and MP3 players were just becoming popular. Three years later, the iPod came along, almost everyone had a cell phone and laptop computers outsold desktops. With most students today having at least one if not all of those devices, electrical outlets at the university library are a coveted commodity.

"The lack of adequate power is a fairly big issue for us,” says Tracey Lauder, assistant dean for library administration. “We collect data from our comments page, and last year we formed focus groups to gather feedback on what students want in the library and one of the things consistently mentioned is more electrical outlets.  It seems that we have plugs everywhere, but clearly with the changes in technology, the students need more.”

Often students arrive at the library needing to power up their laptops. Sometimes six students with six laptops collaborate at one table with four plugs.  Sometimes they want to charge their cell phones or music players. If they’re not sitting at a table with available outlets, they rearrange tables and chairs (not designed to be movable) closer to the walls to reach them. Or, they use extension cords.

“Obviously, that can be a hazard," Lauder said, noting the risk of having the electrical cords running across the aisles.

The issue of scant electrical outlets is one shared by many libraries, she added.  

“Libraries used to be primarily about local collections and preservation. Now that libraries can no longer afford to collect and store the breadth and depth of the literature in all disciplines, our goal is to make the library user-centered – providing students and faculty with the resources needed for research and learning, regardless of where the materials are located,” Lauder said.

In response to the feedback, six wall outlets were added in a group study area. At the same time, Dimond Library partnered with UNH Athletics to have Samsung mobile phone charging stations added on levels one and four. Each station has four outlets where students can charge their electronic devices.

Both measures are short term fixes. A plan now underway to redesign level three will, among other changes, include adding more electrical outlets. The work could commence this summer, coinciding with the addition of the faculty University Club being created on level two, in the underused microforms room.

“The name of the game is flexibility,” Lauder says. “We want to keep the library as beautiful as it was the day it opened after the renovation in 1998 while providing users what they need for academic success and lifelong learning.”

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