Bringing Them In and Checking Them Out: Laptop Use in the Modern Academic Library

Jason Vaughan and Brett Burnes

Laptop computers provide unsurpassed flexibility and convenience for students in the modern academic environment. Many libraries, including the University of Nevada­Las Vegas's (UNLV) Lied Library, allow students to bring in their own laptops or check out library-owned laptops and connect to the institution's high-speed network. While offering unsurpassed convenience, laptop use must be tempered with appropriate authentication, security, and additional procedural policies to ensure that such privileges are not abused. In addition, libraries must be prepared to accommodate financial and staff-time costs associated with such programs.

A hot new trend initiated by many academic libraries is allowing patrons to use laptops connected to the library's network. Modern libraries are often wired in many places, and older libraries have the option to add additional wiring or to investigate wireless solutions. This allows patrons to use a computer within quiet study rooms or while relaxing on lounge furniture. Since the opening of UNLV's Lied Library in January 2001, students have had the option to bring in their own laptops and take advantage of the library's fast network connection, using their own laptops with their own programs and personal setups with which they are familiar. Similarly, Lied Library began circulating library-owned laptops to students beginning in fall 2001.

From the start, the new 300,000-square-foot main Lied Library was designed and built to accommodate thousands of PCs. Data and power connections are integrated directly into both tables and carrels, and in the future, laptop connections will be activated within the floors near lounge chairs. Such flexibility allows users to bring in their laptops and plug in basically anywhere. Regardless of who owns the laptop-the student or the library-there are numerous issues and policy decisions that should be made prior to implementing such a program. For students bringing in their own units, a major issue is authentication to the library network. For those checking out laptops, issues include check-out policies, return polices, and damage assessment. This article looks at how the UNLV libraries are offering both of these services, as well as providing a summary analysis of how selected other libraries are offering similar services.

The LINAS System: Patrons Bringing in Their Own Laptops

A system allowing students to bring in their personal laptops and connect to the library's network was in place when Lied Library opened in January 2001. This was later expanded to also include the Architecture Studies branch library. Many issues affecting library-owned laptops are not relevant with personal laptops as there are no circulation parameters, damage assessments, or fine rates to determine. However, authentication and security are major concerns. By making available its network resources to patrons, the library inherits a certain amount of responsibility. As university policy and common sense dictate, all users must authenticate each time prior to gaining access to the library's network. A range of options exist and different institutions take various approaches with authentication. UNLV wanted a straightforward system, easy to maintain, that would not require the need to install special software on the patron's laptop.

When library staff controls the network hardware provided to the patron, appropriate system-enforced policies provide a level of security. For instance, the library can ameliorate the risk of a user executing malicious software against remote targets or abusing legitimate software (such as configuring a rogue file-transfer protocol (FTP) server with the intent to illegally distribute software without appropriate licensing). By allowing patrons to use their own laptops for network access, the library surrenders this ability to prevent the use of malicious software, or the abuse of legitimate software.

The range of possible malicious activities in which a patron could engage is limited only by the imagination. Two particularly salient concerns are the potential use of library resources to illegally distribute or collect electronic media or self-replicating software and to attempt to gain illegal access to systems. High bandwidth connectivity is crucial to one who wishes to make available, or to illegally obtain, copied software, music, videos, or books. Numerous ways exist to exchange this media over the Internet, including use of Internet Relay Chat (IRC), FTP, and Peer-to-Peer client software (such as KaZaA, Gnutella, or AudioGalaxy). Beyond the obvious legal implications, this activity can produce an unnecessary burden on the network infrastructure, usurping bandwidth that may otherwise be used for legitimate research activities.

A second concern, users attempting to crack and obtain access to other systems or networks, is becoming a serious threat. There was a time when a "cracker" (a programmer who engages in the act of attempting to gain access illegally to a computer system or network) had to be a very proficient programmer to accomplish their goals. Such crackers are often motivated by the challenge itself or by a desire to inflict damage. It was recently reported by Network World News that the Kournikova virus which inflicted over $166,000 worth of damage to fifty-five victims was produced by an individual who was not a programmer. 1 The perpetrator used a worm-making tool kit to generate malicious software. Similar kits, known as root kits, are available that allow people with virtually no technical knowledge to obtain access to servers and inflict damage by removing or corrupting data, obtaining proprietary or confidential information, or using the breached server to launch attacks against another system.

Crackers can use breached servers to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against a particular server (usually a Web server). A DDoS attacker attempts to breach many servers, installing software that in essence makes many repeated requests against a particular Web server. If enough servers are running this software, the target server can be overwhelmed with traffic and stop responding to legitimate requests. Attempts to track the perpetrator of such an attack often dead-end at another breached server.

This very brief review of possible misuses of library resources illustrates that any attempt to anticipate and block all forms of malicious behavior is feeble. Instead, the staff has put their energies into ensuring that any malicious activity may be traced back to the perpetrator, who can then be held accountable. Should the library become aware of an attack which originates from one of the block of IP addresses reserved for use by the patron laptops, it must be able to associate the given address and the given time of attack with the patron to whom the address was leased. To accommodate these concerns, UNLV implemented the LIed Network Authentication System (LINAS).

System Requirements

LINAS was designed at the outset to function with any laptop regardless of operating system or hardware manufacturer. The system has been used on Apple hardware running Mac OS 8, 9, and OS X and on Intel hardware running Microsoft Windows 95 through XP. In theory the system should work with any configuration that supports TCP/IP connectivity along with the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). It was decided to prototype the system on Intel hardware running GNU/Linux 2.2.14 (Redhat 6.2). This system consists of ten HTML files and seven Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts that provide the user interface, three Perl modules that support the CGI scripts, three control daemons that automate various administrative functions, the Internet Software Consortium's DHCP daemon, and a MySQL 3.22.32 database. A Linux 2.2.17-21mdk kernel (Linux-Mandrake 7.2) running MySQL 3.23.23-beta was migrated to shortly after releasing the prototype into production. A summary of these components is provided in appendix A.

As the design and development of LINAS began, one of the utmost concerns was simplifying the registration process, so experienced and unexperienced patrons alike would enjoy a simple, efficient, one-time registration process. In particular, it was decided not to rely on the patron's knowledge of their network adapter's Media Access Control (MAC) address. To simplify the process, the patron's MAC address must be able to be detected when they access the Library's Web page-based registration form. This information is acquired using the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) which is a link-layer protocol used with certain types of network interfaces including token-ring and Ethernet. ARP automatically provides a mapping from an IP address to its corresponding MAC address within a common broadcast domain. 2

The authentication system is built around the Internet Software Consortium's (ISC) DHCP daemon; three control daemons; a collection of CGI scripts which provide the end-user registration interface to the library patron database; and the administrative interface used by library staff to approve, deny, and maintain patron records. The library utilizes Innovative Interfaces' Innopac integrated online library system in addition to an application programming interface supplied by Innovative. The ISC DHCP daemon configuration file allows one to class devices by MAC address. These classes may be allowed or denied from different pools of IP addresses. Two classes (approved and denied), and two IP address pools have been configured. The first pool contains one IP address only, and denies members of the approved and denied classes. This single IP address will only be granted to unknown or unregistered devices. The second pool, which contains the remaining portion of IP addresses, allows members of the approved class and denies members of denied class. The second pool only leases IP addresses to approved users. This mechanism provides the foundation upon which LINAS operates, allowing delineation between allowed and prohibited network connections.

The Registration Process

As described above, a specific IP address has been allotted for use by unregistered laptops. To register a personal laptop, the patron first goes to a Web-page registration form. When first-time, unregistered patrons load the Web-page registration form on their browsers, the library server's ARP table should contain MAC address entries for the IP addresses allotted to unregistered patrons. After patrons complete the registration form, their names and library barcodes are stored in the MySQL database along with their MAC address as parsed from the server's ARP table and assigned a pending status. At this point, library staff must approve the patron. The service-counter librarian, using the administrative CGI scripts, views the patron's account information as retrieved from the library's Innopac patron database (see figure).


Figure. Patron Record in the Innopac Database

After verifying the patron's information, the service counter staff approves the patron's record using the administrative CGI scripts. The CGI script updates the MySQL record from pending to approved, and generates a new copy of the DHCPd.conf file that includes that user's MAC address in the approved class. At this point, the second technical challenge arises. The ISC DHCP daemon does not automatically recognize changes made to its configuration file after its initial load. 3 It must be restarted when a newly approved or denied MAC address is added. Complicating this limitation is the fact that the DHCP daemon (DHCPd) should be run as the system's administrative user, in this case "root." 4 GNU/Linux security features prevent unprivileged users from arbitrarily restarting processes executed by privileged users, including the DHCPd process. To further automate the process, an intermediate program was desired to sense when a new laptop had been added in order to restart the DCHP daemon. In accomplishing this, to avoid unnecessary security risks, we implemented a control daemon-refreshd-that is capable of restarting DHCPd upon receiving notification of a change having been made to DHCPd.conf.

Refreshd is a daemonized process that runs as root. When a patron record is changed and a new copy of DHCPd.conf is generated, a trigger file is also created, indicating that DHCPd should be restarted. Refreshd awakens at a user-defined interval (in this case, five seconds) to test for the presence of the trigger file. If the file exists, DHCPd is restarted, and the trigger is deleted. At this point patrons may release and renew their leases using winipcfg, or restart their laptops to obtain a valid Internet routable address. A flowchart outlining the LINAS registration process is provided in appendix B.

In the design of the system, both the entire registration process and the day-to-day use of network access were made as intuitive as possible. During the initial implementation, unregistered laptops were automatically redirected to the registration form, asking the patrons to complete the form and approach a service counter to have their requests approved. It soon became obvious that the vast majority of patrons required a certain amount of assistance configuring their laptops correctly. In response, a registration station was created at a first floor service counter. Library staff that work at this counter have been trained in basic configuration and troubleshooting of laptops as well as the operation of the LINAS administration program. When the patron approaches the service counter, a staff member assists the patron in configuring the laptop, ensuring that the machine is connecting to the network and retrieving an appropriate IP address from the DHCPd server. The staff member then provides the URL of the registration Web page to the patron.

When the form is completed, the patron must sign a laptop-use agreement, acknowledging receipt of a copy of the laptop-use policy. Both of these documents appear in appendix C. At this point, the staff member verifies the patron's picture ID, and approves or denies the request, using the LINAS administration program. While still at the registration station, patrons may verify functionality by rebooting their laptops or, for Windows-based laptops, using winipcfg to release and renew their IP Leases.


The system has been found to be useful beyond its initial scope. LINAS is being used to secure public access desktop PCs in two other departments that are housed in the library. As of March 2002, 374 individuals have registered their own laptops within LINAS. In Lied Library, there are 597 Ethernet drops currently available for students to plug in their laptops. Beginning in fall 2001, the capability of the system was expanded to include one of the UNLV branch libraries, the Architecture Studies Library. A dozen drops are present within that facility to accommodate users bringing in their own laptops.

A Program for Circulating Library-Owned Laptops

In addition to permitting patrons to bring in their own laptops, UNLV also circulates library-owned laptops. While the system described above involves a high degree of behind-the-scenes programming focused on security and authentication, the program of circulating library-owned laptops involved its own unique set of considerations. The idea of checking out laptops for patrons to use had been discussed at the library for two or three years prior to opening Lied Library. The discussion was somewhat moot in regards to the old library, as wiring and network equipment did not exist to accommodate such a program, nor were funds going to be invested in a facility that would soon be vacated. Early planning involved site visits to two institutions offering such programs. In addition, Lied Library plans called for network drops in myriad locations to accommodate future possible expansion of networked resources, including laptops. Later, after it was decided that the time had come to implement this service, a list of questions was formulated and talks began with other institutions offering such a service. This helped to avoid potential missteps in initiating the program at Lied. Twenty laptops were purchased in late spring 2001 and work was begun on configuration options, security implementations, and policy concerns.

In collecting information to start the program, other libraries were asked about their programs. A listing of several of these libraries, along with links to their respective laptop check-out programs, is provided in appendix D. Among the libraries surveyed, the number of laptops available for check out ranges from twenty to forty units. In addition to the base laptop, some libraries check out accessories such as an AC adapter or carrying case. At least one library did not check out AC adapters, letting the user rely only on battery power. This would help enforce a return of the laptop when the battery power was drained. One library provided spare batteries if a user requested them. Another library checks out AC adapters but does not include a battery whatsoever. This is the method followed at Lied, as it prevents battery theft, and power is available wherever laptop plug-in ports are located. In general, most libraries appear to check out and encourage the use of AC adapters. Libraries circulating battery-powered laptops will want extra batteries to avoid waiting for the battery to recharge before checking the laptop out to the next patron. Some libraries, such as the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland, have wireless laptops, and thus do not need to lend out patch cables. Otherwise, libraries check out patch cables with the laptops. Twenty-five-foot patch cables are circulated at Lied, allowing users to take advantage of practically any location they wish that is somewhat near a laptop drop. Some group study rooms have laptop drops in the floor, and by the time the patch cable is connected to the drop and winds its way to the top of the desk, there isn't much slack left. Each laptop circulated is a complete package, consisting of the laptop, AC adapter, patch cable, cheap headphones, and some basic general-user directions. It was decided not to circulate mice, as the laptops have two types of integrated pointing devices. Some libraries also circulate surge protectors and additional documentation. Following is additional information related to the laptop check-out program at Lied, as well as observations collected from other libraries with similar programs.

Check-out and Check-in Procedures

Libraries vary in their check-out routines, though most keep track of what laptops are currently in use via their circulation system or other methods, such as an Access database. In general, most libraries don't allow holds, and, if they allow renewals at all, it is usually only if no one else is currently waiting for a laptop. Loan periods for other libraries ranged from two to four hours. Normally the laptops have to be returned an hour or so before the library closes each night. Steep overdue fines existed for practically every library. Lied charges twenty dollars per hour or part thereof. Some libraries charged in fifteen-minute increments, others by the hour or part thereof. One library charged five dollars an hour for an overdue laptop, another charged fifty dollars the first hour, and another blacklisted the user from checking out laptops in the future if it was returned late. While the majority of libraries check out laptops from the circulation desk, others circulate laptops from their media department, the reference desk, a combined services desk, or a PC lab desk. In Lied Library, the Media Resources department handles laptop circulations. They are well positioned to take on this task as the department has space to securely store the laptops, as well as service counter space to easily work with the user during the check out and return procedures. In addition, the staff was familiar with the circulation system, having circulated media materials. Libraries vary in the amount of attention given during the check out and return procedure. Some libraries have a staff member power-on the system in front of the user to ensure that the laptop is in good working order, instruct the user about where to plug in the patch cable and AC adapter, and show the user where the various drives are located. This also provides an opportunity to show the patron a laptop drop location map.

Most libraries require users to sign a use or liability statement or leave their IDs with the service desk. Some libraries require the user to sign the form only once, and make a note in their patron record that a form is on file. These use-forms require the user to agree with such statements as:

  • I will comply with all university rules.
  • I agree this laptop is in full working order.
  • I am responsible for. . . .
  • I understand the replacement and late return charges are as follows. . . .
  • I will not tamper with the existing hardware and software.

The Lied laptop circulation form is found in appendix E. Patrons sign the form each time they check out the laptop. Some libraries perform a checklist of inspections when laptops are returned that is just as comprehensive as when they are checked out. These items include powering-on the laptop in front of the user to ensure everything is still in good working order, checking the floppy and CD/DVD drives, making sure the network cards are present and working, and looking for chips or cracks in the laptop casing. The check-in procedure can even be as thorough as taking out the network card and making sure it's the same one (serial number) that was there when the laptop went out. How easy it would be for a student to swap out a two-hundred-dollar library network card for a lesser one-hundred-dollar model. In developing a check-out program, a library may want to look for such items as laptops with integrated network cards and floppy disks. New laptop designs with multiple modular bays can be great, but they also make it easy for components to walk out the door. Users may sign the same form used for check out when they bring the laptops back, stating that the unit is in the same good working order, and agreeing to admit to and work with library staff to resolve any damage that may have occurred while in their possession. At least one library provides proof-of-return receipts after the laptop is returned. Some libraries, having such a popular check-out program, can check out a laptop in minutes, if not seconds, after it is returned, and thus rely more on the end user to report any problems. The staff at Lied follows the thorough model of powering-on the laptop upon both check out and return to help minimize any potential for abuse.

All libraries assess damages sustained to laptops, or have the groundwork to do so when the situation arises. Some libraries report that they have had to assess damages fines, while others report that they have yet to experience any major incidents. Should major damage be detected, some libraries have on file or on the user agreement form a damages rate chart. For example, a broken patch cable would result in no charge, but it would be a five-dollar replacement fee if the cable were missing. A missing drive might cost one hundred dollars, and a missing network card might cost two hundred dollars. All libraries had at the upper end a full replacement cost for stolen laptops or laptops that were totally irreparable. This price ranged anywhere from two thousand to four thousand dollars, depending on current market value. The full replacement cost at Lied is $2500. It was decided not to publish a damages rate chart, as damage can vary greatly depending on the situation. Instead, users are informed that they will be held responsible for any damage or replacement fees, up to the full replacement cost of the laptop.

Maintenance and Security

In addition to staff time necessary to circulate laptops, libraries must be prepared to perform routine maintenance on the laptops, just as they do on other public PCs within their library. Libraries mention that it is typical to have four or five laptops unavailable for circulation because they are being repaired or otherwise undergoing maintenance. Some libraries use a General Hardware Oriented System Transfer (GHOST) to restore a fresh image to the laptop each time it is returned, known as ghosting, before it is circulated to another user. Some libraries moderate this approach and load a new image on all laptops on a regular basis, whether it be all laptops together once a week, or a certain number per day. The Lied laptops are ghosted on a regular schedule, at night, so that all receive a fresh image on a weekly basis. Some libraries install additional security software on the laptops to help keep them pristine

from user abuse. Examples of such software include DeepFreeze, GoBack, or any of numerous other programs designed to lock down the units. In addition, simple batch files can perform such tasks as deleting files users may have downloaded or refreshing the wallpaper. Libraries which utilize such software may not ghost or reformat the hard drives on any regular schedule, relying on users to notify them of any major problems. At Lied, users are encouraged to save files to a floppy disk, and are not allowed to install their own software.

For the desktop PCs in Lied Library, an in-house authentication system was developed; future plans may call for implementing this system onto the circulating laptops. This system involves the use of the normal network client, several generic login accounts, and a Visual Basic script which queries the library's online database. The authentication process would be almost seamless to the user-when the laptop is switched on, a graphical screen appears in which information such as user name and library barcode number is entered. This information is sent to the Innopac patron database for verification, and, if determined to be an acceptable patron type, the user is permitted access to the computer. A log file would keep track of who is logged in, on what PC, and at what time. After authenticating, the normal Windows desktop and appropriate programs would be immediately available. For the present laptop circulation program at Lied, hardcopy user agreement forms are maintained, noting who had what laptop at what time. With DHCP, anyone who was responsible for any breach of network security or etiquette is pinpointed.

Software installed on the laptops includes Netscape and Internet Explorer Web browsers, FTP and telnet clients, and the full Microsoft Office 2000 Premium suite of productivity software. Physical security and theft prevention is a central issue in any laptop check-out program. Laptops are expensive, desirable, and easy to conceal in an academic environment where many other users have their own laptops and where book bags are prevalent. Without exception, all libraries surveyed did not allow laptops to leave the library. Nevertheless, several of the libraries investigated mentioned that laptops had been stolen from them. This ranged from a library reporting a single laptop stolen, to one library having a dozen stolen all at once from a locked storage cabinet.

Many libraries tattle tape their equipment, which activates the library security gates when a laptop is taken from the building. One library puts a garish-colored large sticker on the laptop to help identify those belonging to the library. A somewhat deep-end approach would be to apply sticker with superglue stating, "This laptop stolen from the A.B.C. Library." At UNLV, several strips of tattle tape are placed on the top cover and a large UNLV Library sticker is pasted down with heavy-duty wallpaper glue. In addition, tattle tape is inserted in the inside of the PC. As long as the tattle tape is not touching metal, it works reasonably well. Spray paint was used to stencil "Lied Library" onto the cover, in case the sticker came off. Another idea would be to use an engraving pen. One library mentioned that they would soon be installing Webcams to monitor the exits to the building and perhaps catch any laptop thefts. All libraries had stern warnings about never letting the laptop out of one's sight, and stated that the user is 100 percent responsible for stolen or damaged laptops. Only affiliated users (normally faculty, staff, and students) could check out the laptops, and usually only with a valid university identification card. Obviously, checking the laptops out via the library circulation system or another database helps to track not only the laptops but inventory numbers and other pertinent information. Holding a student's driver's license or student ID may also add a little incentive to return the laptop, though the possibility of fake IDs always exists.

Financial and Staff Time Costs

An obvious question prior to starting such a check-out program relates to both initial startup costs, ongoing maintenance costs, and staff time costs. Initial startup costs include the laptop hardware, related peripherals one may want to check out (external mice, headphones, additional batteries, carrying case, patch cable), and software-licensing costs for the software loaded onto the laptops. At Lied, the initial cost per laptop for a complete unit (laptop, headphones, patch cable, carrying case, and software) totaled around $2500. At the time of purchase, while the laptops were cutting-edge, they were not based on the absolute highest iteration of processor, resulting in an overall savings of thousands of dollars for the twenty laptops. While traditionally laptops were both more expensive and less powerful than desktop units, this is changing. To put things in perspective, the Lied laptops are slightly more powerful than the desktop units that were ordered for the library a year earlier, and, everything considered, the same price. Since the laptops were purchased, they have dropped significantly in price, primarily due to both increased competition and various economic and supply factors.

Maintenance-related costs are another significant consideration. A laptop's compact and integrated design makes the unit, in general, a bit more challenging to maintain. Many components, such as network adapters, video controllers, and sound chips are typically integrated into the motherboard or associated chipsets. If a particular component of a laptop fails, (especially if it is a critical component), it may be necessary to send the unit back to the manufacturer, as it is often difficult, if not utterly inadvisable, for someone other than the manufacturer to attempt repair. This is obviously more costly than having local systems staff replace the components themselves, which can be easily done with desktop units. Related to this, libraries may opt to upgrade desktops in tight budget situations, rather than replace the units. Such typical upgrades may include memory, hard drives, video cards, or monitors. With few exceptions, laptop components can't be upgraded.

Laptops, in general, experience more wear and tear than desktops. Often, the only components of a desktop that a user typically touches are the keyboard and mouse. With laptops, they are touching not only these components, but handling the laptops more intimately. They are taking them out and putting them back into the carrying case. They are placing them in laps, on hard surfaces, or near drinks. They are plugging in patch cables, AC adapters, and perhaps swapping batteries. Considering the number of times such actions occur over a one-week period with a popular laptop check-out program, it is obvious that laptops receive significantly more general wear and tear. As an example, if a library has a standard four-year replacement cycle for fixed desktops, it might be prudent to knock this down to a three-year replacement cycle for laptops.

Other costs associated with the implementation of such a program are primarily staff-related, including routine maintenance and storage and circulation considerations, each of which requires some degree of staff involvement. Routine maintenance, such as ghosting machines with a fresh software image, doesn't take much more time than with fixed desktop PCs. Clearly, while desktops are always connected to the network, prior to reimaging laptops, one must take the time to hook up x number of patch cables to x number of laptops to connect to the network and reimage. In a multicast scenario, using GHOST, in which multiple laptops can be reimaged at once, it can take a mere ten minutes or less to actually have the new image installed on all the laptops. This is followed by a few postregistration settings. Overall, reimaging takes a little time, but not much more than in a desktop environment. Twenty laptops could be easily reimaged in perhaps half an hour. If this is done once a week, it is not an excessively large amount of time, and student assistants could be trained for such work. Circulation considerations involve the fact that laptops have to be circulated (as opposed to fixed desktops), and have short circulation periods compared to books. If the program is popular, staff time involved in circulating PCs can be substantial, primarily depending on how much time a staff member spends with the patron upon check out and return of the laptops. If a thorough check of the laptop and components is performed, it can take up to ten minutes per circulation cycle of a laptop. Storage considerations involve making sure the laptop and all the associated components are in the storage case, and then stacked and locked up in a secure location at night. All of these items are necessary things to consider for a laptop check-out program.


Without exception, all libraries reported that their check-out program was very popular. At least one library has a two-part flip sign on the service desk that either reads "Laptops Available," or "No Laptops Available." This library stated that all of their laptops were typically in use by 11 A.M. The three most popular questions at this library were, "When will the next laptop be returned?" "Is there a waiting list?" and "Can I renew my laptop?" As mentioned above, laptops often recirculate just as soon as they are returned to the service desk. Most libraries don't allow reservations or holds, and allow renewals only if no one else is waiting. There is no mystery as to why the laptop check-out programs are so popular, and hence, successful. A laptop provides more privacy and quiet than using a regular, fixed-desktop PC. Students can take the laptop to a study room or a lounge chair on a floor far removed from the first floor hustle and bustle of the library. Libraries typically put an identical software suite on the laptops as found on their desktop student PCs, and users can print to the library network printers just as easily. Laptops are good for group gatherings in private study areas, and are compact, allowing users to spread out their schoolwork on a tabletop. To help with the potential questions of such a popular program, it's smart to have a well-developed Web page discussing such things as eligibility for checking out laptops, policies, a map of available plug-in locations, a hardware description of the laptop, software available, and perhaps even photos illustrating how to connect the patch cables and AC adapter.


Mirroring the trend that laptop computers are increasing in popularity, students are ever more eager to use such technology in an academic setting. Many libraries provide students with the privilege of checking out library-owned laptops, or allow them to bring in their own laptops and connect to the campus backbone. Both of these services are offered at the UNLV Lied Library. With both services, it is important to have policies and procedures promoting network security. Circulating library-owned laptops requires careful considerations related to proper treatment of the laptops, circulation parameters, budgetary requirements of starting up and supporting such a program, and staff time considerations related to the maintenance and circulation of such laptops. Overall, despite such costs and considerations, laptop programs tend to be very successful and popular within the academic community.


  1.    Joris Evers, Maker of Kournikova Virus Stands Trial, Accessed September 15, 2001,
  2.    W. Richard Stevens, TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1994), 54.
  3.    Ted Lemon and Ralph Droms, The DHCP Handbook: Understanding, Deploying, and Managing Automated Configuration Services (Indianapolis: New Rider's Pubs., 1999), 195.
  4.    Lemon and Droms, The DHCP Handbook, 193.


   Appendix A. Components of LINAS

Executable Scripts

/LINAS/bin/leasesd Tracks the /var/state/DHCP/DHCPd.leases file for updates, parses updates, and stores the info in the leases table of the database

/LINAS/bin/refreshd Kills running DHCP daemon and restarts it. This forces a refresh of the DHCPd.conf file, thereby activating additions to the approve/deny lists.

CGI Scripts








Perl Modules /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.*/

Configuration Files /etc



   Appendix B. LINAS Registration Flow Overview


   Appendix C. Policies Governing Users Bringing in Their Own Laptops

Laptop Use Agreement

  1. I have received a copy of the UNLV Libraries' laptop use policy and I agree to abide by it.
  2. I will report theft or loss of my laptop computer or its network card to the library.
  3. I understand that I may be held responsible for any damage done to the network from my laptop.
  4. I understand that my right to use the network may be revoked if I do not comply with the policies governing network use.

Name: (please print)

Signature ___________________________________________ Date ____________________

UNLV Libraries' Laptop Use Policy

Laptop Use: Students, faculty, and staff of the university are welcome to bring laptops with network cards and use them with our data drops to gain access to our network. The laptop must be registered in our laptop authentication system, and a valid library barcode is also required. Users are responsible for notifying the library promptly if their registered laptop (or its network card) is lost or stolen, since the user may be held responsible if their laptop is used to access and damage the network. Users taking advantage of this service are required to abide by all UCCSN and UNLV computer policies.

In pursuit of its goal to provide the most effective access to information resources in support of the University's programs of teaching, research, and scholarly/creative production, the UNLV Libraries have adopted policies governing electronic access and use of licensed software. It is expected that all those who use the libraries' network to access electronic resources will do so responsibly, respecting the rights of other users.

Authorized Users: Electronic information, services, software, and networks provided directly or indirectly by the UNLV Libraries shall be accessible, in accordance with licensing or contractual obligations and in accordance with existing UNLV and UCCSN computing services policies. The UNLV Libraries and their staff reserve the right to deny network access if they are in violation of any part of this policy.

Authorized and Unauthorized Use: Network access is to be used for academic research purposes only. Internet/World Wide Web searches must be in accordance with system and campus computer-use policies.

Users must not:

A. Copy any copyrighted software provided by UNLV. It is a criminal offense to copy any software that is protected by copyright, and UNLV will treat it as such.
B. Use licensed software in a manner inconsistent with the licensing arrangement.
C. Copy, rename, alter, examine, or delete the files or programs of another person or UNLV without permission.
D. Use a computer to annoy others, including, but not limited to, sending offensive messages, or knowingly causing a system crash.
E. Create, disseminate, or run a self-replicating program ("virus"), whether destructive in nature or not.
F. Use a computer for nonuniversity work, such as for private business, or clubs not sanctioned by UNLV.
G. Tamper with switch settings, move, reconfigure or do anything that could damage terminals, computers, printers, or other equipment.
H. Collect, read, or destroy output other than your own work without the permission of the owner.
I. Use the computer account of another person with or without their permission unless it is designated for group work.
J. Use software not provided by UNLV in the lab unless the student is legally authorized to do so.
K. Access or attempt to access a host computer, either at UNLV or through a network, without the owner's permission, or through use of log-in information belonging to another person.

Internet Use: The UNLV Libraries cannot control the information available over the Internet and are not responsible for its content. The Internet contains a wide variety of material and opinions from various points of view. Not all sources provide information that is accurate, complete or current, and some may be offensive to some viewers. Users should properly evaluate Internet resources according to their academic and research needs. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement by the UNLV Libraries of the content or views contained therein.

The UNLV Libraries endorse the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, which supports access to information and denounces censorship, labeling, and restricting access to information. In accordance with the American Library Association's policy, the UNLV Libraries do not use Internet filters to restrict access to information on the Internet. As with other library resources, restriction of a minor's access to the Internet is the responsibility of the parent/legal guardian.

Copyright Alert: Many of the resources found on the Internet are copyright-protected. Although the Internet is a different medium from printed text, ownership and intellectual property rights still exist. Check the documents for appropriate statements indicating ownership. Most of the electronic software and journal articles available on library servers and computers are also copyrighted. Users shall not violate the legal protection provided by copyrights and licenses held by the UNLV Libraries or others. Users shall not make copies of any licensed or copyrighted computer program found on a library computer.

   Appendix D. Additional Information from Libraries Offering Laptop Programs

Colorado State
Concordia University
Oregon State University
Penn State
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Georgia
University of Maryland
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
University of North Carolina
University of Oklahoma
University of Texas
University of Virginia
University of Washington

   Appendix E. Laptop Check-out Policy and User Loan Agreement Form

Laptop Check-out Policy

Eligible Borrower

University of Nevada, Las Vegas faculty, staff, and students. YOU MUST HAVE YOUR UNLV I.D. If you have any fines on your library record, you will not be able to borrow a laptop until the fines are cleared.

Loan Period

Laptop use is restricted to the library. Three hours or less depending on what time laptop is checked out. No renewals.

Hours of Service

Media Resources counter check out: Available on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations or holds taken.

Monday through Thursday: 8:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. Last checkout at 7 P.M.

Friday: 8:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. Last checkout at 3:30 P.M.

Weekend hours of service:

Saturday: 10:30 A.M. to 6 P.M. Last checkout at 4:30 P.M.

Sunday: 11:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. Last checkout at 7 P.M.


Agreement form will be signed by the user that covers their responsibility and verifies condition of laptop at checkout and checkin.

The user who checks out the laptop is responsible for any loss or damage until the laptop is returned to the media resources desk. The user is responsible for up to the full replacement cost ($2500) if the computer is damaged or stolen.

All user files must be saved to a disk before returning laptop to media resources. Hard drives will be wiped clean of any files when returned to media resources. The library is not responsible for any lost files.

Return of Laptops

Laptops must be returned to a media resources staff member and not just left on the counter when returned. When returned, staff will verify that the laptop is in good working order before signing off on the user agreement form. This will take ten to fifteen minutes and user must be present.

In case of emergency evacuation of library please take the laptop with you and return to media resources when building is safe to reenter.

Fines/Late Charges

There will be a $20 late charge for each hour or portion thereof that the laptop is returned beyond the due time. The maximum overdue fine is $100. These fines will be attached to the patronâs library card, which could affect students registering for classes or obtaining diploma/transcripts until paid in full.

Laptop Computer Loan Agreement Lied Library UNLV

  • I accept full responsibility for the laptop and accessories I am borrowing. I will reimburse the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the cost of repairing or replacing this laptop or accessories if they are damaged, lost, or stolen while checked out in my name.
  • I understand that the replacement cost for this laptop computer will be no less than $2500.
  • I understand the overdue fines are $20 per hour, $100 maximum overdue fine.
  • I agree to comply with University rules regarding computer use.
  • I understand that the circulation period is for three hours or less depending on the time the laptop is checked out.

Library use only. Please do not leave the laptop unattended.

Your signature below indicates that you recognize your responsibility in the care and custody of any laptop you borrow from Lied Library.

Laptop Check Out

Physical inspection verification by staff
Fill in all blanks and initial corrections

__ Laptop computer #

__ PCMCIA slot/battery cover

__ Exterior appearance O.K.

__ Cat 5 cable

__ Successful boot-up

__ LCD screen

__ Floppy drive

__ Memory 130,528 KB RAM


__ Case

__ AC adaptor

__ Headphones

I have witnessed the physical inspection of the laptop computer and components. All checked parts are present and appear to be functioning.

Borrower signature______________________________________________

Print name_____________________________________________________


Time checked out_____________________________________________________

E-mail address_____________________________________________________

Media staff name_____________________________________________________

Laptop Check-in (Return)

Physical inspection verification by staff
Fill in all blanks and initial corrections

__ Exterior appearance O.K.

__ All checked-out components returned

__ Successful boot-up

__ Memory at 130,528 KB RAM

__ DVD-ROM/floppy drive ejected

__ Computer properly shut down

__ LCD screen

__ Documents off hard drive (ask patron)

Time checked in_____________________________________________________

Media staff name_____________________________________________________

Borrower signature_____________________________________________________

Comments, technical problems, or damage: please make comments or report problems on the back of this agreement and give it to Media Resources Staff.

Fines accessed:_____________________________________________________

Reason: ___________________________________________________________

   Jason Vaughan ( is Head, Systems Section, and Brett Burnes ( is Network Specialist at the University Libraries, University of Nevada­Las Vegas.