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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Making the Most of the Space You Have

Technology is getting smaller

Mobile technology is more flexible than traditional desktops

Consider replacing desktop computer workstations with mobile devices like laptops or tablets that patrons can use wherever they want inside the library. This requires very robust wi-fi and a way to store and charge devices, but it’s much more flexible and dedicated workstations take up a lot of space. This doesn't mean you should get rid of all the fixed workstations – some patrons prefer a standard desktop computer, and you always need at least one fully accessible computer. You can use a rack or mobile charging cart in a secure staff area, or a laptop vending machine that works with a library card. These are not inexpensive and are more common in larger libraries, but they do have the advantage of being self-service when staffing is tight. You can also save space by using small, touch-screen devices mounted on the wall or shelving end panels for your catalog lookup computers.

Laptop vending machine

This is a laptop vending machine that dispenses laptops and/or tablets for patron use in the library. Patrons use their library card to borrow a device, with a specific loan time. The device shuts down and is unusable when the time is up.

Below are two examples of ways to store and charge mobile devices. One is a self-contained cart that can be moved from room to room, and the other is a space-saving charging rack in the staff workroom.

Charging cart

Charging rack with laptops

Why use a whole desktop workstation for your computer catalog? Below are two examples of shelf end-cap and column-mounted tablets that take up less space.

endcap-mounted OPAC

Column-mounted OPAC


For public areas, always think about ways for spaces to serve more than one purpose. If you have a room dedicated to a single purpose, like a computer lab or a makerspace, think about increasing the flexibility of that room. Incorporate flip-top tables with laptops instead of fixed computers, or put your 3-D printer on a rolling cart so you can use the room for other purposes.

3D printer cart