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Palo Alto City Library to lend Chromebooks to patrons

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Google is teaming up with the Palo Alto City Library for a new program that will allow patrons to take Chromebooks home with them for up to a week at a time.

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Google hasn't been shy about getting the Chromebook in front of users, previously partnering with Virgin Airlines to offer the laptops for in-flight use, and recently opening a "Chromezone" inside a PC World in London. The company is now teaming up with the City Library of Palo Alto, California for a new program that will allow patrons to take the cloud-based computers home with them for up to a week at a time. The initiative started last month, when 21 Chromebooks were made available for in-library use in addition to the Windows laptops the library also offers. After evaluating the performance of the Chromebooks, the library decided it would let users take them home.

While offering free access is obviously a clever way for Google to familiarize people with Chrome OS, it doesn't remove one of the main perceptions that has hindered Chromebook adoption: namely, that a web-based computer can't provide functionality comparable to a traditional machine. Palo Alto senior librarian Jessica Goodman told Wired that "People would try it and say, 'That was pretty cool. I wish I could do word processing with that.'" In fact, the library is still struggling to make the Chromebooks compatible with its own pay printing service. Still, the cloud-based laptop is uniquely suited to this kind of use; when users log into a rented machine, it becomes their computer in totality, no matter who owned it the day before. The Palo Alto take-home program begins in January.