A reader wants Stephen King’s latest thriller.
With the swiping of a library card on a machine and the entry of the book’s row and digital code on a keyboard, a mechanical arm grabs the item and sends it through a small elevator on a conveyor belt that dispenses delivers it like a bag of crisps or a can of soda.
With vending machines for cars, electronics, ties, and even champagne and caviar, it’s not such a big jump to see libraries setting them up to borrow books and DVDs. These machines, known as “24/7 libraries” became more relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, when library buildings closed and access to documents was non-existent or limited to digital content or curbside pickup. of street.
The Rancho Cucamonga Public Library installed one in August, just outside the Family Resource Center at 9791 Arrow Route. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Julie Sowles, director of the library. Customers can check and return the materials using the machine.
The city’s two libraries have remained mostly open and have also provided curbside delivery during the pandemic. The Archibald Library closed in mid-March 2020 and reopened for in-person service in July 2020. The Paul A. Biane Library never closed its tech center during the pandemic, Sowles explained.
However, Sowles felt that clients were staying away and that many could not make it to libraries due to work schedules. The answer was to increase services through contactless borrowing for those who were unwilling or unable to enter library buildings.
âAdding options like the 24/7 library helps us better meet the needs of people who prefer to use printed materials rather than digital ones,â she said. âIn addition, there are residents who are unable or unwilling to visit heavily populated public spaces during the pandemic. “
The machine, which cost around $ 160,000, contains 340 items, including children’s picture books, young adult titles, bestselling fiction and non-fiction books, and movie DVDs. Yes, there are Harry Potter and Star Wars selections, Sowles said. âWe make sure every audience is covered,â she added.
So far, around 20 people a week are using the Rancho Cucamonga library vending machine, she said. âWe are still building our base. It’s still new to people. Many tell him they’re amused by the “show,” adding that it reminds them of machines in amusement parks and arcades that use a claw to hand out prizes – only this one doesn’t take all of their change.
She said the machines have been used in libraries across the United States but are growing in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the San Diego County Library System installed five, while Hemet’s Public Library has a borrowing machine outside its library building at 300 E. Latham Ave. since May 2017, said Kathye Caines, senior librarian at Hemet.
Caines spoke to Rancho Cucamonga and the San Diego County Librarians, offering his experience with the machine running for four years. She said the Rancho Cucamonga 24/7 library machine is the first in San Bernardino County.
âWe were closed for 15 months and that’s how we continued to provide library services,â Caines said. âIt is becoming more and more relevant. “
In March 2020, 13,345 books and DVDs were borrowed by patrons using the 24/7 library machine in Hemet, the library reported. Even after the Hemet Library reopened on May 5, 2021, with limited hours, the machine, also known as a 24/7 kiosk, continues to be heavily used. Often, preschool teachers will pre-order books that are installed in the machine by library staff, she said.
âOthers have told me it was one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made,â Caines said.
Rancho Cucamonga would like to purchase additional book dispensers. Sowles hopes the city can add one to a new fire station slated for the city in 2023. Another option is to locate one near senior housing.
âIt’s a shift in philosophy where we don’t always expect people to come to a brick and mortar facility,â Sowles said.