A Look at the Tech Lending Program at Columbia University Libraries
Flexible seating. 3D printing. Virtual reality. High-end computing. For many students, faculty, and researchers, these are benefits – even expectations – of a modern research library. At Columbia, the Science & Engineering Library checks all of these boxes. But often, these assets are tied to a physical library space. Now, the Libraries provides a collection of equipment through a newly-launched tech lending program designed to facilitate take-home opportunities for experimentation and research.
Initiated by Emerging Technologies Coordinator Jennifer Brown and Operations & Undergraduate Coordinator Jim Crocamo in 2016, the tech lending program is currently offered by the Science & Engineering Library in the Northwest Corner Building. The roster of technology in circulation includes: Raspberry Pis, microcomputers the shape of a credit card, Arduinos, miniature controllers that are especially adept with sensors, and Leap Motion controllers, hardware sensors that allow users to control computer programs with in-air finger and hand gestures, all of which are searchable through the Libraries’ online catalog.
Admittedly, the program has had a slow start as few courses actually require use of the equipment. However, as the Libraries acquire more technology, like a 3D printing pen and an Oculus Rift, the possibilities for course integration become greater and greater.
“We’re especially excited about the ways that the tech lending program connects scholars and students with our librarians to engage with technology for their own research or just to learn more about what’s possible,” said the Libraries’ Director of Digital Scholarship, Mark Newton, whose group oversees the lending program. “We can help the self-starters tinker, but we’re available for in-depth consultations around technology-supported research and scholarship, too. In many ways, it feels like we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible in digital scholarship, and programs like tech lending are helping us understand exactly where the Columbia community hopes we can grow.”
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.