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Booking it

Norman is the first city in the nation to offer 24-hour public library kiosks.

Molly Evans December 11th, 2013

It’s like a Redbox for books, and as of last month, Norman is the first city in the country to make 24-hour, automated libraries available to the public. Two are now open.

The self-serving kiosks allow people to choose from a selection of about 400 print and digital materials using their Pioneer Library System card or simply typing in their PLS account information, said Lisa Wells, assistant director for library systems.

If users cannot find a book or DVD they want inside either library, they can request the item from the more than 700,000 choices by navigating the catalog and then picking it up at any desired library or kiosk location, Wells said.

Located at Irving Recreation Center, 125 Vicksburg Ave., and 300 Norman Center Court (formerly a Borders bookstore location), the 24/7 machines also allow patrons to return books and pay any library fines via credit card.

“I don’t think that, in any way, Pioneer nor the city of Norman officials feel this additional service point will really reduce any traffic to brick-and-mortar facilities,” she said.

Although Pioneer has expanded with larger facilities and additional branches over the years, Wells and her associates thought Normanites needed more mobility and convenience from their local library.

“We believe that having this machine here will actually increase the number of people getting new library cards and materials being used,” Wells said.

The interest in installing the kiosks was sparked at a national library conference in December 2011, where the company EnvisionWare debuted the technology, said Caroline Dulworth, collections and outreach manager. There, officials

of Pioneer and EnvisionWare discussed a deal for purchasing the product; the decision was solidified in June 2011.

City officials representing both the east and west sides of Norman were supportive of the decision to install the automated libraries, according to Wells.

“We are so thankful to be in a community that supports innovative library services with their ballots and to have the kind of library board and local government partnerships to see such a vision through,” Dulworth said.

EnvisionWare provides kiosks and related products to libraries to increase efficiency and public service, which Wells believes will make Pioneer a more visible entity in the Norman community.

EnvisionWare worked in China markets for a couple of years to develop the automated libraries. Of all locations to install the North American model of the machines, Norman was the right place at the right time, Wells said.

“I think it was timing. We were looking for a solution. We were first,” she said.

Dulworth does not think the convenience of the automated libraries will eradicate larger facilities in the future, but the costs associated with maintaining and expanding those facilities to house thousands of materials are difficult.

“The 24-hour library concept provides easy access,” she said.

“However, many of the other activities that libraries provide every day — programs, community space, technology instruction and information/ readers’ services — are still in demand at our staffed libraries.”

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