McHenry Library now offers five iPads for student checkout. The touchscreen computers were bought in June with end-of-the-year discretionary funds, a decision that has raised criticism in light of budget cuts and limited library hours. Photo by Prescott Watson.

Pressing a dime-sized button at the bottom of the 10-by-8-inch touchscreen platform lights up the iPad and its applications, and with it, the newest gadget at McHenry Library.

Jenesis Bonilla, a fourth-year Oakes student, heard from a friend about the library’s new acquisition, and went to see for herself.

“I did not know they had iPads,” Bonilla said. “[I checked it out] just to actually play with it. I’ve never actually been able to use it or experience it.”

Virtual pages with application icons slide from left to right with the touch of a finger across the tablet computer’s smooth screen. 3D Brain, Amazon Kindle, New York Times’ Editor’s Choice, NPR, Pulse Newsreader, the Elements, Wall Street Journal and World Factbook are among the 41 applications equipped in the iPads. Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Brushes and Virtuoso are included as well. An application to annotate directly on PDF files was also added, per the request of a student user.

The new gadgets allow students the chance to use these applications for both schoolwork and entertainment.

“I’m going to play with it for a bit, and then I have o­nline articles that I have to read, so might as well just read them off of here,” Bonilla said.

Calling it an experiment to see how popular iPads are among students, Greg Careaga, the head of teaching and learning services at McHenry, confirmed in an e-mail that for the past three and a half months the five iPads together have circulated 274 times, averaging out to 17 times per day.

The iPads have been available since late June for four-hour checkouts by students, and late fee charges apply as they do to other books or electronics.

On the UCSC Libraries’ Facebook page, a post informing students about the new iPads received two “likes” and one comment by fourth-year Kresge student Samuel Corbin.

“Students have to levy a fee against themselves in order to get slightly more reasonable hours because the library budget is so tight,” Corbin said on the Facebook post, “but the library is buying IPADS?”

In response to Corbin’s statement, the UCSC Library Facebook account wrote, “We wanted to continue our recent experience with small scale projects that offer students access to technologies they might not otherwise have.”

An estimated $2,800 was spent on the five iPads, which included the cases and some software, university librarian Ginny Steel said.

“[The iPads] were bought with a small amount of year-end discretionary money that we had last year after scraping and saving all year long,” she said. “We got the iPads in June. The [fees charged to increase library hours] weren’t paid until the fall. We are very clear that we are using that funding to restore the library hours.”

College Nine fourth-year Clare Angami compared the utility of iPads against the laptops that McHenry already rents out to students.

“A lot of things, such as the iPad, are new innovations to technology,” Angami said. “But … given the context that we were overcharged for library hours, I feel that whatever the iPad can bring, we have already fulfilled those needs for the students in renting laptops and having computer labs.”

From a scale of one to 10, Subhas Desa, professor and undergraduate director of the Information Systems and Technology Management Program, would give the necessity of iPads a two or a three.

“Is it necessary? I would say probably not,” Desa said. “I think the world would still go on and people would be doing what they have to without the iPads.”