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Library adding 7 checkouts

Self-serve desks cut lines, reduce need for workers

To keep up with growing circulation, Allen County Public Library officials plan to install seven additional self-checkout stations.

The hardware, design fees and cabinetwork to make space for the units will cost an estimated $142,000, library Director Jeff Krull said Thursday.

He asked for the library board’s initial approval to move forward with the project. Krull said the board would have to approve a contract with the cabinetmaker at a later date.

Installing the new countertops and cabinets to hold the equipment at several locations within the library, 900 Library Plaza, could begin this fall.

Five units will be installed at the main circulation desk in the Great Hall. One will go in the children’s department and one will be installed at the east security desk also in the Great Hall, he said.

Currently, the Great Hall, children’s and young adult areas each have one self-checkout counter. Krull hopes clustering multiple self-checkouts at the circulation desk will reduce the number of staff needed to run the desk.

Three to four people currently work at the desk, depending on how busy the library is. Krull said any reductions would be made through attrition, an ongoing effort to cut costs, or by assigning staff to other areas.

Circulation has increased steadily since 2000 and is expected to continue growing, officials said.

The library can’t add more staff to keep long lines from forming at the checkout desk. Adding the equipment will help, Krull said.

Pay to print

The board received an update on the new pay-to-print program. Printing was previously free to library users.

In November, the library started charging patrons 5 cents per page to print. The small fee aimed to curb excessive printing, which would reduce wear on the printers, and cut paper and toner costs.

The pay-to-print policy has accomplished that, Finance Manager Dave Sedestrom said.

The library spent $118,785 to install equipment to handle the payments and expected to take two years of savings to earn that back, Sedestrom said.

But the library is on track to pay off that investment in the first year. During the first seven months, the library has saved $27,413 on toner and paper plus brought in $42,186 in printing fees, Sedestrom said.

By the end of 2009, he expects the combined savings and revenue to total $119,314, Sedestrom said.

The library has aggressively taken steps to reduce costs and increase revenue in expectation of new property tax caps that will hit tax bills this year.