How Suffolk Libraries uses Chrome devices to keep visitors coming back for more

Editor's note: Today we hear from Leon Paternoster, Deputy Head of IT at Suffolk Libraries in Ipswich, UK. Suffolk Libraries serves the UK county’s population of over 700,000. Learn how Suffolk Libraries uses mobile technology to keep its members engaged and interested in visiting their local branch.

As a modern library network, we’re more than a place to read — we connect our members to the world around them. That connection could be a book, a newspaper or access to the internet. My job as deputy head of IT involves supporting and growing our libraries’ web services. Making access to information fast and easy across any and every library-owned device is a main focus for my team.
We know our members love browsing the web when they visit the library, so we wanted to make getting online as seamless as opening a book. In 2014, we worked with our partner Ancoris to replace many of our outdated Windows PCs with Google Chromebooks. We also purchased a number of touchscreen Google Chromebases, which allow children to interact with websites without using a keyboard or mouse. Ancoris developed a Chromebook Access Management System (CAMS) that integrates the Chromebooks with our existing library management system. This controls who can log on and how long they can stay online. Today we have more than 200 Chrome devices available for visitors to check out across our 44 branches. Now visitors are able to go online anywhere in the library. From young children playing literacy games to students diving into heavy research, customers of all ages can engage with material — whether at a shared table or in a quiet nook — on their Chromebook until the device is due back.

Chromebooks and Chromebases have been so cost-effective — both initially and once deployed — that we’ve been able to increase the number of computers available to library users while upgrading our technology overall.

Now that we have fast and simple ways for our visitors to get online, our branches are hosting new programs that people love. For instance, some branches have introduced “Code Clubs,” weekly meetings for younger visitors to play games and explore coding languages like Python and Scratch. We also provide a free family history service that helps members research their family trees online.

From an IT perspective, Chrome devices are ideal. They’re secure, easy to use and require very little of our team’s time to manage. With Chrome Device Management, we don’t have to worry about data on lost or stolen devices because we’re able to centrally shut down devices that we’ve identified as lost or stolen. Despite staff concerns about theft, we haven’t had a single Chromebook stolen. And with automatic system updates, the Chromebooks stay fast, up-to-date and ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Our technology is a huge draw for library members. They look to us as a portal for information as well as a resource for pursuing their interests and professional goals. Chrome devices are the perfect library companion for our visitors and a simple solution for our IT team.