I think the idea of making the laptop unusable after a certain period of time could work, especially if the renewal of the loan could be done in an easy manner (call and do a dual-login kind of thing).  However, it would only work if the person is still using it.  

Again, I think you should look deeper into the reasons for the lack of return.  I applaud your consideration of equity in these matters - they are what separates such library programs of lending things from for-profit businesses, which would, by necessity, require extensive credit-based processes (have you ever tried to get something from Rent-A-Center?!? ).  What are the actual reasons these are not getting returned - not just your assumptions (all reasonable guesses)?  What could your library do to make things easier - make it less of a pain to renew (just to check-in), make it less embarrassing to return something late, make it less profitable to pawn or sell, etc.

Good luck.
Karen R. Harker, MLS, MPH
Collection Assessment Librarian
UNT Libraries

-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Lolis, John
Sent: Thursday, February 9, 2023 12:09 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [EXT] Re: [CODE4LIB] A Modest Proposal

Thank you so much to all for your thoughtful replies.  It has certainly prompted quite a discussion (sometimes philosophical) among my colleagues, and we'll be keeping them in mind as we go on.  It appears that, at the very least, additional outreach in some way, shape or form is needed, especially at the local shelter here in town.

Here the question has expanded beyond the issue of unreturned laptops because we're also considering a library of things circulation program in which there may be some high priced items included.  One contentious issue has to do with possibly requiring a credit card number on record in case of loss, damage or theft.  Of course, we don't require a credit card when checking out a laptop, as we recognize that most who need a laptop are unlikely to have a credit card.  But what if we were to loan out a $500 360 degree camera?  I may be pig-headed, but I see no reason why we couldn't require a credit card for something like that; however, the question of fairness was raised, that we shouldn't presume that an impoverished or homeless person *wouldn't* need a 360 degree camera, and therefore we shouldn't require a credit card for such things as well.  In an ideal world I'd agree, but I think that practicality here demands otherwise.

Getting back to the laptops, my solution would be to have them do a non-stop Rick Roll <> after the due date.  Then again, the words, "Never gonna give you up..." are not what we want the patron to think in this case. ;-}

Best wishes to all!

John Lolis
Coordinator of Computer Systems

100 Martine Avenue
White Plains, NY  10601

tel: 1.914.422.1497
fax: 1.914.422.1452

*"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."* - Richard Feynman <>,
theoretical physicist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965

On Mon, 6 Feb 2023 at 11:56, Lena G. Bohman <[log in to unmask]>

> You aren't going to like this answer, because it's very boring, but I 
> think you can't know if this would work without knowing *why* people 
> aren't returning laptops. I'm not a public librarian, but my mom was 
> an academic who spent her career working with a very poor population 
> of domestic violence victims, and I was often pressed into service as 
> an ad hoc research assistant. One of the things I learned from the 
> experience was that people who are on the edge have very chaotic 
> lives. Even if they intend to return the laptop, they may not.
> I think you need to learn more about the population you are trying to 
> address. Alternate explanations:
>    1. People checking out the laptops tend to be transient and move out
>    of the area with short notice. Possible intervention: include a return
>    envelope with prepaid postage.
>    2. People are selling the laptops to make quick money. Possible
>    intervention: talk to local pawn shop owners about returning the laptops
>    when they come into circulation.
>    3. People in shelters struggle with transportation to return the
>    laptops. Possible intervention: talk to shelter workers about having them
>    help to hold laptops at end of circulation period until they can be picked
>    up.
> I don't think any of these issues would be solved by a ransomware like 
> you mention. But I think you need more data to decide what to do. 
> Probably that means talking to people who already work with your local 
> homeless community (if, indeed, homeless patrons are the source of 
> most missing laptops -- you probably want to run some sort of analysis 
> to figure this out), and, if you can find the time to do so, interviewing patrons.
> Lena
> Lena Bohman
> Data and Research Impact Librarian
> Long Island Jewish - Forest Hills Liaison Donald and Barbara Zucker 
> School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of 
> Lolis, John <[log in to unmask]>
> *Sent:* Monday, February 6, 2023 11:30 AM
> *To:* [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
> *Subject:* [CODE4LIB] A Modest Proposal
> (apologies to Jonathan Swift)
> Please take this as only half-joking.  While it is eminently do-able, 
> the question is would it be ethical?  Other than stirring things up on 
> a Monday morning, I'd also love to hear alternative solutions others 
> have brought to bear on this problem.
> We circulate laptops bundled with hotspots, and as expected we've seen 
> too many of them fail to return.  Of course, we disable the hotspot 
> when it fails to return, but that doesn't always result in the return 
> of the bundle.  What makes matters worse is that in the spirit of 
> combating digital inequity, we do our best to accommodate those who 
> are homeless, who have no permanent address other than a shelter, who 
> have no cellphone and have no credit card.
> Other than Scalefusion MDM software which we're evaluating, I had a 
> wonderful, deliciously evil thought: suppose, upon checkout, we 
> started a clock ticking on the laptop.  Three days after the due date, 
> our very own branded ransomware kicks in.  The patron sees a message: 
> to recover your files, return the laptop.  It'd be like a prisoner 
> exchange; they return the laptop and we return their files.  Of 
> course, this only works with those who actually create data files that they value.
> So who's in on this (he asks tongue in cheek)?
> John Lolis
> Coordinator of Computer Systems
> 100 Martine Avenue
> White Plains, NY  10601
> tel: 1.914.422.1497
> fax: 1.914.422.1452
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> ctQ97xzIgBw1WM1anhaxBBsHr2Bb7rljbiw%3D&reserved=0
> *"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers 
> that can't be questioned."* - Richard Feynman <
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> 3D&reserved=0
> >,
> theoretical physicist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 
> 1965
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