Illustration by Patrick Yeung.

The lack of general understanding regarding the purpose and relevance of the Apple iPad has caused a lot of controversy since its release in April. Is it a laptop, an electronic reader? Now, the controversy continues, this time within one of our libraries at UC Santa Cruz.

The McHenry Library now has five iPads that students or faculty can check out for four hours at a time. In total, the five 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi gadgets cost $2,800, which comes out to $560 per iPad.

After experiencing a $1.9 million cut in their already dwindling budget, the library administrators thought that what the students really needed was iPads.

But what can the iPad possibly do to enhance our learning experience?

According to the UCSC Library Facebook page, the iPads were bought because “we wanted to continue our recent experience with small scale projects that offer students access to technologies they might not otherwise have.”

Admirable as it is that our library wants to keep us on the cutting edge of technology, this was just the wrong time for the purchase to be made.

Couldn’t any of that money have been used to keep the library open a few more hours in a quarter, or to add another staff member? While $2,800 isn’t very much, it’s still something, and it could have been put to better use.

Anything the iPad is able to do can be done anywhere else, in a completely viable way, within the library. Need to read something on E-Reserve, or conduct research for an essay? The library offers a computer lab with multiple computers for just those purposes.

It’s difficult to see a real use for the iPads, beyond allowing students to fool around on them, say, “Ooh” and “Ahh,” and then return them. They are useless.

We, as a campus, do not need iPads. What we need are more hours in the library. What we need is for the lines of communication between us and the administration to be open, and a change in the way the UC is being run and opperated. Transparency is paramount.

We had protests all last year, and have already had one this year, which pointed out ways in which the administration wastes money on items that are not essential to the school.

It’s the little things, like five iPads, that always, ultimately add up.

Mismanagement of finances has become a recurring trend, and it will continue as long as the student body goes along with it.