I recently went to Speakup, a bar that sprang up in an otherwise vacant courtyard in Brooklyn, and I marveled at how they’d instantly conjured the bar – particularly how they were able to get light and sound to each table in the middle of the courtyard. Turns out they use a portable power source from Sears that has regular 12v AC outlets and powers devices for ~500hours.
Today’s libraries are places that live and die by how power is provided – power for laptops, mp3 players, mobile phones, etc – and they are often large open spaces. Until recently, few libraries were designed with power provisions in mind, especially getting power to the middle of a floor where you either you have cords everywhere coming from columns or go to the trouble of cutting a trench in the concrete floor or installing a relatively expensive raised floor system. So, retrofitting these libraries is a major problem and a major cost.
Until wireless power is safe, instead of cutting into slabs and adding raised floors, we ought to be thinking about power portable like the above as an interim solution for a few years until all laptops have all day batteries (even the large laptops preferred by most students who see the laptop not as a work tool but as a tv/phone/game console/magazine/etc and so go for size, sound, graphics at the expense of portability and battery life). This would be a lot cheaper and provide more versatility within spaces (though a somewhat safer version of the above would be needed and ideally something you could charge overnight).