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Archive for Monday, April 28, 2014

Library closed for week while it prepares books for new checkout system

April 28, 2014

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The Lawrence Public Library is closed through Friday, but the number of books flying off the shelves has seldom been greater.

Library staff members are planning on touching, scanning and shelving more than 32,000 books per day this week, plus several thousand additional DVDs and CDs.

Library in the Park

Library in the Park

Lawrence Public Library staff members will be hosting special story times and book events at two Lawrence parks this week.

• 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at South Park Gazebo. A storytime will begin at 7 p.m. and several books will be available to check out.

• 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Watson (Train) Park Gazebo. A storytime will begin at 7 p.m. and several books will be available to check out.

Why, you ask? So they don't have to touch so many books in the future.

When the library moves into its expanded and renovated space at Seventh and Vermont streets in July, it will have a goal that all books and materials checked out by library patrons will be done on self-service machines.

But in order for that to work, it takes lots and lots of stickers this week.

The stickers — applied to an inside page of a book or a CD/DVD case — are specialized tags that contain a thin antenna that will be used as part of a new $500,000 radio-frequency identification system. The RFID system will allow large stacks of books to be checked out at once by simply placing the books in a bin, rather than manually scanning a bar code on each item.

"We don't want people to think that we're replacing our staff with robots," said Brad Allen, director of the Lawrence Public Library. "Instead, we're asking robots to do robot work."

By moving to a self-service checkout system, Allen believes the library will have more staff members available to provide assistance to patrons, to conduct programs or to do community outreach. And, yes, there will be someone available to help patrons if they can't figure out the six self-checkout machines at the new library.

"But they are very intuitive," Allen said of the machines, which also will allow patrons to pay fines by credit card, cash or coins.

Currently, the library has older self-checkout machines, and the self-checkout rate is only about 50 percent.

The new system also will be used in conjunction with an automatic, conveyor belt book-sorting system that will be used in the back offices of the new library. Currently, all books are sorted by hand. The new system also is expected to speed up the check-in process for books. Currently library employees manually scan the bar code of each book, and in the case of CD/DVD cases, they have to open each case to ensure the disc was returned. The new system will allow multiple items to be checked in at once and also will be able to detect if a CD/DVD case is empty. The library currently checks in and checks out about 100,000 books per month.

"The new system is going to make us a lot more efficient," Allen said. "If you spend $500,000 for a new system and don't become more efficient, you've made a mistake."

Becoming more efficient is expected to be important at the new library. The $18 million expansion project will add 20,000 additional square feet to the building, but Allen is not expecting a significant increase in the size of the library's staff, which stands at 77.

The library plans to have its grand opening on July 26 at 707 Vermont St.

As for this week, the library is closed through Friday while staff members apply the tags and do the necessary scanning work for the RFID system. Any books or materials due this week can be dropped off at the library's book drop located outside the main entrance to the temporary library facility at Seventh and New Hampshire streets. Any books not returned this week, however, won't accrue any late fees.

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