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The Pros and Cons of Secure Storage Units
By Katy Shaw
May 16, 2003

For some students, the information age has lightened their load for school-literally. A laptop computer, a spiral notebook and a pen-what more does the savvy student need to bring to school each day? Most students at the iSchool, though, have found that just the opposite is true. The number of students who actually own laptops is in the minority, and books, articles printed from electronic reserves and personal items are heavier than ever.

A perfect example is MLIS day student Stacy Schulze. Stacy has a sizeable backpack-the same kind that is typically used by hikers going on expeditions-which is usually crammed to the brim each day. In addition to pens and notebooks, Stacy also generally brings along her laptop, which has a large, heavy-duty case that is at least 3 inches thick. Her bike is her primary means of transportation, so a helmet and-depending on the weather-raingear are also a part of her daily routine. Stacy is also a member of a UW wind ensemble group. On Wednesdays, she brings to school a collapsible music stand, a folder with sheet music, her oboe and various items that she may need for her instrument, such as spare reeds, a screwdriver, etc. All of these items also go into the backpack-except for the ones that don't fit, which she carries by hand all day long.

Stacy has the same problem as many other students at the iSchool who don't happen to be Ph.D. students or graduate assistants-too much stuff to carry around and no secure place to put it between classes. This issue was raised at the last ALISS meeting and received an overwhelming response from the students in attendance. There was a general agreement that many students are in need of secure storage space that is also convenient to access. Lockers in the HUB or in Savery Hall can be rented to any University of Washington student for $5 - $10 per quarter, but most iSchool students would rather lug their stuff around than to go all the way to another building to access secure storage space.

Many other departments at the University of Washington have secure storage units for graduate students (and sometimes undergraduate students). Lockers are available for free to students in the School of Nursing and are automatically assigned to students at the School of Pharmacy. They are available for $6 per quarter at the School of Art, $5 a quarter for Mechanical Engineering students and $7 per quarter for Electrical Engineering students.

Lockers aren't without their drawbacks, though. Thompson Hall has lockers on every floor which are formally available only to students of the Jackson School. Since there are more lockers than will ever be used by students of the Jackson School, however, the School's Office of Student Services will also let students from other departments check out lockers-for free. These lockers do not come with locks, so students have to bring their own. The problem? Since the lockers are unlocked when not in use, people frequently abandon garbage in them or use them to stow their belongings without permission. This creates a headache for staff when they try to assign empty lockers to students. A staff member at the Jackson School admitted that having to keep track of the lockers was "a bit of a burden."

Of course not all lockers have the same problems as those in Thompson Hall. Many are locked with keys instead of padlocks, and the keys are issued to students once they pay a deposit fee. These storage units are locked when not in use. In some departments, lockers are the responsibility of student groups-not the student services department. Almost all of the other departments on campus with lockers charge their students a quarterly and/or annual fee to rent them, which helps to pay for maintaining and keeping track of the lockers.

Whether or not lockers conjure up positive or negative memories from high school, the problem remains: students need a secure place to put their stuff. Many iSchool students have sore backs and achy joints from carrying around books and materials for various classes, research projects and extracurricular activities. When asked if she would use secure storage units if they were available at the iSchool, Stacy said that she definitely would, "provided that they were of a size that you could actually fit things into.

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Edited by Michael Harkovitch

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