Like over 900 other students, Henry Kon, a third-year studying science, technology and society, took use of the University Libraries’ technology lending service this past fall by borrowing a laptop after his personal device was stolen just weeks before the fall semester began.
Kon said he was able to receive an extended loan for the duration of the fall semester while he navigated insurance disputes and attempts at data restoration. That was until the technology lending team sent an email informing him this policy of extended loans would no longer be in effect for the following semester. The maximum time students are permitted to borrow a laptop is now capped at eight hours, as it was prior to spring of 2020.
While Kon has since made other technology arrangements, he said the policy change is inequitable, particularly for commuters like himself.
“For commuter students whose laptop may be their only device, they’re already at a disadvantage because they have to pay for parking and a lot of other expenses,” Kon said. “They lose their one machine and their only choice is to go into the library. They might not have a parking pass, they might have to pay extra, they might lose time on the bus having to get to the library just to submit an assignment, especially when a lot of assignments are now through Moodle. It’s really a step backwards that I feel unfairly impacts commuter students.”
The library team responded to an email from Kon with their condolences, but said they did not have the means to continue the long-term service.
“We simply do not have the resources that would be required to scale this service up to provide longer-term lending in an equitable manner to all of the students who may request it, particularly in the absence of a University-wide system of determining and documenting the relative needs,” said Chief Strategist for Student Success Rob Rucker in response to Kon’s email.
Carolyn Argentati, deputy director of University Libraries, said in order to offer help to as many students as possible, the libraries are largely unable to meet more specialized needs.
“The libraries just cannot scale our short-term lending service at a level that would respond to anyone that asserted that they had that kind of need,” Argentati said. “We don’t have a way of validating someone’s status, and commuting can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We are, and have been for decades, committed to the existing short-term lending service, and that’s really valued and appreciated by its thousands of users every year.”
Kon said the University should be taking steps to redress this, referencing the funds NC State has at its disposal.
“This University has hundreds of millions of dollars in endowment, it can happen somehow,” Kon said. “All I want to see, at the very least, is that they’re making an effort. You’re leaving a large selection of students out, it’s not equitable.”
As of 2021, NC State’s endowment was actually reported at $1.95 billion, according to the Office of Finance and Administration.
Technology lending services maintains that the implementation of technology loans were not made with the intention of being a substitute for students’ personal devices, but rather to provide support for individuals’ temporary computing needs and assures students will still have access to desktop computers in the libraries 24 hours a day five days a week.