GLENDALE : Machine Helps Checking Out Library Books

Library patrons can now check out books at Glendale's central library as easily as they can withdraw cash from their checking accounts.

The 87-year-old Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St., is one of two Los Angeles-area libraries to install a 3M SelfCheck System--a machine that looks and works a bit like an automated teller machine.

Librarians hope the month-old system, which cost administrators $18,000 to install and requires a $1,200 yearly maintenance fee, will lessen long checkout lines caused by staff cutbacks.

"This machine has already helped us to be more efficient," said Marie Fish, central library administrator.

The library, which serves more than 1 million readers a year, has lost five staff members since 1989 and currently faces a citywide hiring freeze and a book budget that is half what it was two years ago.

Budget problems are compounded by a growing city population--sending more residents to the facility to check out books from the library's 350,000-volume collection, said Chuck Wike, library community relations manager.

Some current patrons appeared oblivious to the machine this week as they walked by the system to the circulation desk, but not library volunteer Brenda Chambers, who heaved an armful of 19 books onto a shelf next to the monitor.

Chambers, who checks out more than 20 books each week to read to students at Fremont School as part of the Grandparents and Books program, said the system will cut down the amount of time she spends in line.

"This machine will be a great boon for this library," Chambers said.

There are currently about 50 3M SelfCheck System machines in libraries across the country, with several libraries using more than one machine, said Cathie Ericson, spokeswoman for 3M, the Minnesota-based manufacturer of the machine.

Although Glendale library administrators are negotiating to buy a second machine, the device will not replace circulation staff members needed to give patrons research advice or to provide additional assistance, Fish said.

To check out a book using the machine, patrons place their library card under a scanner. After the user is authorized, the machine tells the patron to slide a book across a shelf under the monitor so the scanner can read a bar code placed in the upper right hand corner of the first page.

The machine then prints out a receipt which has the name of the patron, the name of the book and the date it must be returned to the library.

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