Several Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) library systems are considering an “open libraries” model that would give patrons access to books, computers and other resources by themselves at times when the library isn’t open and staffed. Two west metro libraries already use the idea on a small scale.
The setup relies on technology — via a central management system — to let people enter the library, check out items and log onto computers — all while video monitors record their actions. There’s a phone connected to a central library or an on-call librarian so patrons can ask questions. Automated systems announce when the library is closing, flick the lights off and on and can even operate amenities like a gas fireplace on a schedule.
Self-service libraries are common in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, where budget cuts forced libraries to get creative to remain open. Officials at Bibliotheca, the leading company in North America that sells the required software, counts more than 750 libraries globally as users.
In North America, it’s still a novelty. Just five library systems — eight libraries total — have implemented it since 2016. Here, open libraries aren’t just about saving money — they’re also a way to extend and standardize a library’s sometimes erratic hours so more people can use the community space. Advocates say the arrangement lets libraries assign staff during hours when they’re most needed and frees them up to do more meaningful tasks than checking out books or turning out lights.
This probably is the wave of the future. You can read more in an article by Erin Adler in the Star Tribune web site at: https://tinyurl.com/y69ay2ol.