Library purchases self-check units for patrons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Austin Library Board approved the purchase of a new self-check unit at their monthly meeting Monday.

The unit will cost approximately $22,000 and allows patrons to check out their own books, freeing up staff for other duties around the library, Library Director Ann Hokanson said.

The money will not come from the library budget. It will be taken from the Wienke fund, which is a $900,000 fund donated by the late Walter Wienke. The library is allowed to use the interest on this fund for 30 years. After that point, they can begin using capital at a rate of 5 percent per year.

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The money is to be used under the condition that all purchases with it are outside the ordinary costs of the library.

The library currently has one machine, which about 15 percent of visitors to the library use, Hokanson said. That machine cannot handle all types of books, plus it is in an out-of-the-way location. She said a new machine that could handle all types of books would help increase that percentage, especially if both machines were then moved to the check-out desk.

She said some libraries have 95 to 98 percent of their patrons using the self-check system, however she would like to see the number around 50 percent.

Hokanson also presented the 2002 annual report to the board.

According to the report, circulation at the library increased in 2002 from about 280,000 to about 304,000. Hokanson said this is a trend.

"That seems to be pretty much nationwide," she said. "The last few years have seen a strong surge in library use."

She said some people correlate a bad economy with an increase in library use.

Visits to the computer lab increased from 139,000 in 2001 to 150,000 in 2002.

Budget numbers were hard to compare. The 2002 budget included items, such as the Wienke fund, that had not been included in previous years. The budget last year was about $879,000.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at