Case studies

Libraries and community organisations across Australia are working with their multicultural communities to promote literacy, digital inclusion, cultural maintenance, and community participation. Find out what others are doing, make connections – and submit your own program as a case study!

Laptops for loan at Blacktown


Blacktown City Libraries, NSW

Project description and objectives

In 2011, Blacktown City Libraries piloted lending laptops to Library members, as part of Council's commitment to bridging the Digital Divide and supporting sustainable resource use and recycling within the City. The Library laptops were refurbished secondhand computers recovered from a Council initiated an E-waste collection in late 2009. More than 400 old computers were retrieved for re-use. Technical Aid for the Disabled NSW (TAD) partnered with Council to refurbish these computers, providing not only laptops for loan by the Library but also computers for community groups within Blacktown City.

The Library's initial pilot ran May to September 2011. Six laptops were lent from Max Webber Library Blacktown. The loan period was one week. All members were eligible to borrow laptops; parental permission was required for junior borrowers. This trial was extremely successful. The Library is now implementing a total of 20 laptops for loan across all five branches of the Blacktown City Libraries network, and was the successful recipient of Waste And Sustainability Improvement Program grant funding to enable the purchase of more.

As the pilot laptops were refurbished, it was not possible to standardize the make and model. However some standardisation was achieved: • Windows XP operating system • MS Word and other common software applications • Deep Freeze security • Internet access via wireless card.

Blacktown City Libraries provide free wireless internet access at all Library locations. Each laptop was given a unique barcode number and catalogued onto the Spydus Library Management System. Members borrow the laptop in the same way as they would any other library resource. As part of the trial process, it was decided that the laptops would be available for loan for a period of one week and that they could not be reserved. Laptops must be handed in to staff at the branch from which they were borrowed (not returned via returns chute).

Targeted customers were library members who did not have access to a computer outside the Library. Analysis of laptop borrowers over the pilot period indicates: • 50% males and 50% females • 16% were over 60 years • 30% were in their 30's • Only 8% were under 15 years (possibly reflecting the success of the laptops for schools program).

Funding sources

Pilot program costs were very low. • Library staff costs were minimised as Environmental Services developed the E-waste project and negotiated with TAD. • The hardware (laptops) was free as a result of the E-waste program. • The software ($9,000 licensing

Consultation strategy

Blacktown City Council's Strategic Plan "Blacktown City 2025" has identified Bridging the Digital Divide as a trigger project designed to ensure the residents of Blacktown have equitable access to computer technology. In the last census (2006) just over 50% of households in the Blacktown LGA had no internet connection, implying a poor rate of access to a computer at home. Blacktown City Libraries has been offering laptops for use in the libraries since 17 May 2011. These laptops have been popular and many customers expressed an interest in using our computers outside the library confines.


Flyers and posters were designed and displayed in the library to target existing Library members. Advertisements were placed in local newspapers and the website to target community members who were not currently Library members.
The laptop bags were branded with Blacktown City Libraries, on the inside and outside. Laptops condition of use flyer was also developed. Supporting material includes: 1. Poster 2. Laptop conditions of use flyer 3. Photograph of laptop branding.


Objectives measured:
1. Use ie loan statistics (including effective re-use of equipment otherwise destined for landfill)
2. Respect for the program, ie minimal overdue returns, no or minimal loss rates, minimal damage.
3. Positive customer feedback. Loan / overdue statistics.

The trial was declared successful with over 100 loans between May to September (4 months), which is full capacity, that is all laptops where in full use. Approximately two thirds were returned on time over the trial period; overdue laptops were not kept significately overdue. Loss / damage statistics There have been surprisingly few hardware or software issues: two out of six with broken parts after the trial period. This is considered excellent as they were refurbished and second hand. Customer feedback Informal customer feedback indicated that this was excellent customer service

Contact Name

Samantha Cadwallen; Nina Antosz


Project Coordinators