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NOVEMBER 17, 2010
The Director's Report
Two recent innovations instituted by libraries illustrate how re-thinking of service is necessary as libraries across the country face reduced budgets, staff, and open hours.
The Palm Harbor Library in Florida installed a “Library to Go” vending machine. Located near the library’s front door, the machine is stocked with bestselling books and DVDs. Library customers are able to check out the items of their choice by swiping their Palm Harbor library card. The Friends of the Library purchased the unit for the library to lessen the impact of reduced service hours on the community. The service is available only during hours that the library is closed.
The Washington County Library in Minnesota recently opened a Library Express branch at the Hugo City Hall. Library Express is a bank of lockers where customers can pick up materials that they have previously requested. Customers make their requests by searching the library catalog and reserving items using their library cards in much the same way that MCPL customers request items. The items are delivered to the Library Express branch, and customers are notified that they can pick up their items at anytime within the next 48 hours. Special codes allow customers to access only the materials reserved for them at any time, 24/7.
Self-service solutions such as these are not meant to replace full service libraries where customers can browse shelves, attend story-times and programs, and talk face-to-face with library staff. They do provide a model in which library collections can be made more available to customers in spite of reduced staff and open hours. Computers and machines are used for processes that do not require human intervention. This frees staff to use their time and efforts for those services which only people can do, providing the personal contact and expertise which our customers expect.
On a personal note, this is my last column in the Newsletter. At the September Library Board of Trustees meeting, I announced that I will retire in January 2011. It’s been a privilege to work at MCPL for over 18 years. I appreciate the many opportunities for personal and professional growth that have been afforded me. Now, it’s time to hitch up the trailer, load the canoe, gather the dogs, and spend more time on personal endeavors that I’ve been putting off.