How Waukesha Library Revamped Its Public Access Computers

Waukesha Library at night

Waukesha, Wisconsin might be most famous for being a "guitar town." It's the birthplace of Les Paul, music pioneer and inventor of the iconic Gibson Les Paul guitar. But the Waukesha Public Library also deserves fame for its innovative programs and dedication to its community. With the help of TechSoup's Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI), the library is able to provide the valuable service of public access computers to Waukesha residents.

A Dynamic and Diverse Community

Located west of Milwaukee, Waukesha has a population of about 71,000. The library is the largest in a system of 17 libraries, and it serves about 100,000 people. The library supports a wide range of community members, everybody from tech-savvy students (the Waukesha school district has an iPad program) to manga-loving teens (who publish a biannual teen-created fanzine) to those who are homebound.

Waukesha has also increased its materials and services for non-English speaking people and English-language learners. The city has a growing Hispanic community that makes up more than 10 percent of the total population. The library works with local nonprofits, such as La Casa de Esperanza and the Waukesha Hispanic Collaborative Network, to provide Spanish-language programming, such as parenting classes and story times. The library works with the Greater Waukesha Literacy Council to mentor and tutor adults in English as a second language, reading, writing, spelling, and math.

Refurbished Computers to the Rescue

Here are some fun numbers: In 2013, the Waukesha Public Library recorded 83,388 logons to public computers, representing more than 65,000 hours of usage. Clearly, access to computers and the Internet is important to this community!

In order to meet the growing need for computer access, the library needed to revamp its aging Windows XP computers. The library wanted sturdy, basic IT equipment that would hold up under heavy use by the public. The library heard about TechSoup's RCI computer hardware offerings through our By the Cup newsletter. Because the library's staff members had already acquired Microsoft Office software through TechSoup, they had no hesitation in getting hardware through RCI.

They have ordered a total of 60 Dell desktop computers to date. The computers are dispersed throughout the library in the teen and children's sections along with a central space with about 40 workstations.

For Waukesha Public Library, refurbished computers are an intrinsic part of the library's services. Assistant director John Klima told us:

"We get a ton of usage on our public PCs, and the RCI program is going to help us continue to provide this valuable service to our community."

The library also started a laptop checkout program in 2013, which has been very well received by the community. By way of a generous donation from its Friends of the Library group, the Waukesha Library purchased 15 laptops, a laptop cart, and software for the laptops.

Why Refurbished Computers Rock

If you're unfamiliar with our RCI program, here are a few stats about its environmental impact:

thank you RCI customers

And beyond just being earth-friendly, refurbished computers are friendlier to your budget too. Paying less for hardware means you can start programs such as laptop lending or upgrade your public access computers. TechSoup's RCI program also offers tablets, including Apple iPads, making it a great option for starting an e-reader lending program.

Image: Scott Feldstein / CC-BY-2.0