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Archive for Monday, July 10, 2000

Library adding to self-service

Officials emphasize machines won’t put librarians out of a job

July 10, 2000

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Technophobic bibliophiles beware.

The Lawrence Public Library is adding a second self-checkout machine.

Mia Monteau, 4, uses a self-checkout machine with her father
Maurice, Lawrence, Friday in the childrens area of the Lawrence
library. A new automatic reader for the adult section of the
library should arrive in September soon after a renovation to
replace the laminate counters now in the circulation department.

Mia Monteau, 4, uses a self-checkout machine with her father Maurice, Lawrence, Friday in the childrens area of the Lawrence library. A new automatic reader for the adult section of the library should arrive in September soon after a renovation to replace the laminate counters now in the circulation department.

This one will be gasp in the adult section.

But 13-year-old Leah Hoelscher doesn't want technologically inhibited people to worry too much that they will be abandoned in the computer age without personal contact.

"There's always going to be one line for the fuddy-duddies that can't use the machine," the Baldwin teen said.

The new $24,000 machine should arrive in September, soon after a $35,000 renovation to the library circulation desk.

Unlike the existing machine in the children's section, the new machine will be close to helpful librarians. To watch Leah use it, it does not seem complicated.

"I use it all the time," Leah said. "You don't have to wait in line. You just wave the books under the scanner and go."

Leah placed her card on the machine and then slid a few books beneath the bar code reader.

With a clunk, the security magnet inside the book was disarmed so it could be taken out of the library.

The machine won't check out materials to people who owe more than $10 in library fines.

When all of Leah's books were checked out, the machine printed a yellow receipt showing the books and their due dates.

"It gives them something they can put on the fridge," library director Bruce Flanders said.

Flanders said the first machine was bought a few years ago.

"We intentionally put it in the children's room first," Flanders said. "They are not awed at all by technology."

That fact has been illustrated by the amount of use it has seen. Half the children's material is checked out on the machine rather than at the circulation desk.

Flanders said it is typical for other libraries to see 15 to 25 percent of materials moved through the machines.

The new machine will not usher in a new world of librarianless libraries, said Flanders, who does not expect to reduce staff because of the machine.

"I don't foresee in the future a circulation area without a circulation staff," Flanders said.

It may mean Flanders won't have to hire new librarians as the library continues to grow.

Mostly, Flanders expects the new technology to free up librarians to help with research and answer questions.

"It lets the library staff concentrate more on providing reference and information services," he said.

The library is making other changes in order to keep up with the growing demand for technology.

With money from the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library the library added two Internet-ready computers in the children's section in the spring and three to the adult section last month. That brings the total of Internet computers to seven.

Flanders said even that is not enough to meet demand; he is hoping to add three more computers through private sources later this year.

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