Refurbished Computers Are Gaining Traction in Maine Libraries

Information Technology Exchange (ITE), a charity in Belfast, Maine (near Bangor) operates the PCs for Maine program, which provides refurbished computers to schools, nonprofits, and libraries for use as public access stations. What is unusual is not that this low-cost equipment is available to Maine libraries, but that it is becoming popular. How did this happen?

The answer is essentially in having a good track record and… who you know. Jarrid Leadbetter of the Maine State Library Association got to know the work of the Information Technology Exchange and began recommending this equipment to libraries across the state. Over the years ITE became a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher and developed a solid reputation not only for increasing technology access and literacy to anyone in the state needing it, but also for their equipment warranties and good computers.

Library adoption of refurbished IT equipment has been in my experience a bit rare as yet. My sense of this is based on my asking refurbishers over the years at the International Computer Refurbishers Summit about libraries and their interest in refurbished IT equipment.

How It Got Going

ITE has been around for over 10 years supplying low-cost used IT equipment and know-how to families and charities around the state. They got in to the business of supplying institutional computers through their PAC (personal access computer) program. ITE got started by placing a 12 seat computer lab in My Place Teen Center where they tested the stamina of their equipment in the most challenging environment they could find. After two years of pounding by teenage kids in the lab they found that none of their equipment died or had any problems.

In due course ITE began offering $200 refurbished business class public access stations to libraries. PCs for Maine is now listed as a resource on the Maine State Library Association website. A person like Jarrid Leadbetter, from the state library association that library people trust endorsing the program was a real key to libraries trying out the program. He is the library association contact for the program on their web page.

Why Maine Libraries Are Buying Refurbished Computers

Jodi Martin, Executive Director of ITE told me that one reason for libraries wanting refurbished computers is that the machines are very low cost and come with a two year warranty. They can provide public access computers at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. Libraries are now getting beyond just trying them out and now ordering up to 8 stations at a time. “We have helped over 50 libraries with public access computer systems and we also offer a little beefier computers for administrative use as well.”

A $200 complete public access station includes:

  • A refurbished business class PC
  • A host of software (Windows 7, Microsoft Office, etc)
  • Security tools and a 'locked down' user profile that doesn't allow users to change the computer's configuration
  • A refurbished 17" LCD (flat screen) monitor
  • Mouse, keyboard, and communicator headset or speakers
  • Power cables
  • A copy of ITE’s "Public Access Station User Guide"

Tim McFadden from Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library sent them a nice note: "What a fantastic service you folks provide. Much appreciated!"

A Library-Nonprofit Symbiosis

Another thing I like about ITE is their close association with eWaste Alternatives, which is an environmental nonprofit run by Jodi’s husband, Chris Martin. The two programs work closely together to both supply good warrantied IT equipment in Maine and also take it back at end of life for proper disposal. eWaste Alternatives is a social enterprise that provides employment to disabled people who work on demanufacturing IT equipment.

This is a pretty powerful husband and wife charity team that is dedicated to serving libraries with good low-cost public access IT equipment that is endorsed by the Maine State Library Association.