You might soon be able to checkout books using automated self-service kiosks at more branches of the Philadelphia library system.
Library Automation Technologies President and CEO Oleg Boyarsky said that the company has been discussing the possibility with representatives of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
“Because of the economy, the demand for free services that the library provides has drastically gone up, and it’s very difficult to hire additional staff,” Bovarsky said in a telephone interview.
Sandra Horrocks, Free Library of Philadelphia’s vice president of communications and development said that the organization is considering the benefits of more self-service kiosks.
“We have self-service kiosks in some locations, and we’ll definitely want to get more,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s a service to the patrons. We’re 111 positions down right now through the library system. We don’t expect additional staff anytime soon.”
Recently spared by Mayor Nutter’s $3.84 billion budget and five-year plan, Philadelphia’s library system is looking to salvage what remains. Boyarsky said that in addition to financial savings, the self-service technology could re-focus staff on addressing more critical functions of the library.
On Monday, the library kiosk manufacturer announced in a press release the completion of the first phase of its rollout plan for the San Diego Public Library.
San Diego’s 33-branch library system has integrated 36 of the self-checkout machines into more than half of their branches. Each wireless device was customized to fit the library’s needs and the machines were modified to seamlessly match decor.
“In a big way, [San Diego] decided that city-wide, they need to take advantage of the automation of technology,” Boyarsky said. “It’s very exciting, especially because it’s San Diego. It’s very high tech and a very big deal.”
LAT has had one of its kiosks installed in the Free Library’s Andora branch in northwest Philadelphia for more than four years, when the company was first testing its new wireless kiosk technology locally.
“I’m happy to say that this day, that same unit still works and is still being used,” Boyarsky said.
Boyarsky said that because of scale and of issues specific to each branch, the two parties have discussed how to best handle deployment. One issue they’ve discussed is security pertaining to CD and DVD media – often the library’s most popular collection – which has a higher rate of theft than paper material.
“With the advent of EBay and craigslist, [stealing media] has become a very nice little side business for a lot of folks across the country. We are the only firm with a solution specific to libraries that eliminates theft problems and provides self-checkout capabilities,” he said.
Boyarsky says that a primary selling point of the company’s technology is a unique user interface that provides animated instructions with pictures and inviting voice prompts that help all patronss, young and old, native and foreign.
On the back-end, system administrators can track kiosk statistics and even change what the patrons see on the screen. Libraries can promote upcoming events, post advisories and communicate with patrons on a large scale.
The company currently has installations in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and California. It has recently targeted universities, with roll outs including the University of Washington in Washington State, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
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