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Released July 3, 2003


HATTIESBURG - A popular notebook computer checkout program at The University of Southern Mississippi's Cook Library has begun garnering national attention as part of a new marketing effort by Dell Computers.

The campaign features Cook's head of electronic services Barton Spencer, who devised the "Cook 'book" notebook checkout program. Spencer's likeness - along with praise for the library's efforts - has been included in mailouts Dell is sending libraries across the country.

Spencer and the Cook 'book program are also featured on a company Web site created to promote the use of computer technology in libraries.

The "Cook 'book" program has allowed students to check out Dell notebook computers for use anywhere in the library since 2001. Recently, the library made overnight checkouts available as well through the "Night Owl" program. The computers are equipped with wireless access to the campus network, as well as several popular software packages, making them ideal tools for both research and the completion of assignments.

Late last year Spencer gave a presentation on the program at the LITA (Library and Information Technology) conference in Houston. And that's where he and the Cook 'book program were discovered. Dell representatives in the audience heard Spencer's presentation, and soon after plans were in the works to include him and the Cook 'book program in their new marketing efforts.

"It's funny, because apparently they were batting my name around at Dell for months," Spencer said. "I gave this presentation back in October, and I didn't hear about it until April."

Just last week, the new campaign went nationwide. The mailouts, which are in the form of a booklet, say of Spencer and the Cook 'book program: "Barton Spencer wrote the book on notebook checkout programs - figuratively speaking. He helped give students the freedom of mobility and redefined the library's niche."

Similar praise, along with a detailed description of the Cook 'book program, can be found at

Now the Cook 'book program serves as an example for other campus libraries interested in offering similar services to their students.

"It's a real good feeling," Spencer said. "Basically what the library did was they saw something that the students would want as a beneficial service, and they met that need. And that's what the library is all about."

Also helping during the genesis of the program was the Southern Miss Office of Technology Resources, now known as iTech, which provided financial assistance when the original set of 10 laptops was purchased. Since that time, the library has bought an additional six to help meet student demand.

During the course of the program, there have been times when the library saw as many as 1,000 laptop checkouts per month. And overseeing the checkouts has been Kaylene Brehm, head of access services at the library. Brehm was also instrumental in researching the program along with Spencer before the first set of laptops was purchased.

At that time, Spencer said, the idea of providing notebooks for check out at campus libraries was just emerging.

"It really did take off (at Southern Miss) once people started realizing it was there," Spencer said.

The laptops used in the Cook 'book program are Dell Latitude models. When students check them out, they can request various types of accessories for use with them, such as zip drives and headphones.

The 16 notebooks are kept in a large cabinet-style case, which protects them and recharges their batteries.

As important as the notebooks themselves has been the service plan Dell offers, Spencer said. The Complete Care Plan the library uses covers breakdowns of the laptops' components, but also practically any other type of problem, even going so far as to insure against them being dropped.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM