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Plugged-In Study Tables

   February 28th, 2008

Study Carrel AfterOver the two years I've worked at my library, I've seen an increasing number of patrons bringing in their own laptops. We've offered wireless access and many years, but now we're offering just a little bit more.

In addition to work tables in the library, we also have a number of study carrels for people to use. The tables we purchased were designed with both power plugs and ethernet jacks built into them, but the study carrels were not. Since the study carrels were near walls that had jacks, we thought that was good enough.

However, the arrangement of the carrels (which are two little cubicles arranged back to back) meant that one patron had easy access to the plug, while the other had to interrupt the first patron and loop wires over the walls to get access.

We thought we could do better than this, and set about checking our vendors and the internet for purpose-built after-market power boxes, that had both AC power and an ethernet jack - and that were low-profile enough to not encroach on the desk space. We found some, but most were $200+, which was too much. So instead, we built our own.

Using pieces and parts from the hardware store and Radio Shack, we made four boxes, one for each carrel, and each box had two power plugs and one internet jack. The pieces are all common and low-tech, so assembling them was no problem. And, not including ethernet cables (which we already had), they cost about $25 each.

So now, for a very low price, patrons can use their laptops with or without a wireless card, and with or without their battery power (as well as charge their cell phone or power some other device) and not have to drape cords over another patron.

See photos: before, after, and a close up of a box.

That's one small step for the library, one giant leap for the patron who kept asking us why we didn't have outlets in the carrels.




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9 Responses to “Plugged-In Study Tables”

  1. Adam Says:

    Brian,

    I was wondering if you actually wired the boxes yourself, or if you had someone do it for you. We are going through a process of trying to move things around in our library and that gadget you came up with might work.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    Yes, it was library staff who made these boxes (me and the custodian). I’ve been asked this a couple of times, so I’m going to create a list of the parts I used and post that here – it should be ready in a couple days.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    Okay, here’s all the parts I used, and roughly how they go together. I’m not going to say how they go together because, after all, this does involve electricity. If you don’t know what you’re doing, find someone who does.

    I actually made two styles of boxes, because some carrels needed to be cut and some didn’t. All the photos are on flickr:

    Flush Mount Closeup Flush Mount Style
    Below are the parts needed for this box
    Double Wallplate Double wallplate Home Depot, $1.63
    Outlet Outlet Home Depot, $2.12
    Cord Power cord Home Depot, $6.47
    Ethernet Insert Ethernet insert Home Depot, $3.97
    Ethernet Connector Ethernet connector Radio Shack, $6.99
    Ethernet Cable Ethernet cable We had some, $free
    Port Cover Port cover Radio Shack, $1.49
    Blue Box Blue housing box Home Depot, $2.16

    Box Closeup Surface Mount Style
    Below are the parts needed for this box (it also requires a piece of 2×4 and some odd screws and L-bractes to mount it)
    Single Wallplate Single wallplate Home Depot, $0.49
    Outlet Outlet Home Depot, $2.12
    Cord Power cord Home Depot, $6.47
    Mount Box Surface mount box Home Depot, $2.98
    Ethernet Mount Ethernet surface mount box Home Depot, $1.79
    Ethernet Connector Ethernet connector Radio Shack, $6.99
    Ethernet Cable Ethernet cable We had some, $free
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  6. Colin Mangan Says:

    You mentiond powered tables. I was wondering where you got these as we are looking for a simmilar solution.

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Colin: I’m not sure where our powered tables came from, but I’m guessing just one of the usual library vendors (Brodart, Gaylord, Demco, or Highsmith) – I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.

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