Rural library completes two-year project to implement self-check out stations - East Idaho News

Rural library completes two-year project to implement self-check out stations

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VICTOR — After a years-long effort, a rural library has expanded its services to improve the experience of its patrons.

The Valley of the Tetons Library, with two locations in Victor and Driggs, now offers self-checkout stations at both locations. This is the result of a two-year project where librarians had to re-catalog tens of thousands of collection items in order to offer the new service.

“Libraries have been around for 3,000 years and the reason that they have been around that long is because they adapt and change to the needs of the community,” said Christina Heilman, executive director of the Valley of the Tetons Library.

The origins of this project began in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary for people to social distance. The librarians thought about it, and decided they would benefit from a way for patrons to check out books on their own.

“Using a self-checkout system would be really helpful to improve our efficiency, increase patron usage and just help our library serve as a community hub, and so we set out to get a self-checkout system,” Heilman said.

To do this, the library staff would have to re-catalogue the library’s entire selection with RFID tags, which included over 40,000 items.

The problem was that many other libraries had the same thought, and the needed equipment was on backorder for over a year.

The librarians had to wait until they had the equipment to begin the daunting process of re-cataloguing the entire selection. This includes far more than just books, or even DVDs.

“We have a lot of exciting opportunities at our library. We are more than just books,” Heilman said.

Some of the many items the library offers are tools, telescopes and even small robots. The librarians had to re-catalog all of these in order to make them compatible with a self-checkout station.

Heilman said the main challenge in doing this was how much time and energy it took. There were a couple of times where they closed the branch in Driggs after giving the public proper notice and focused entirely on re-cataloguing.

All in all, it took the library over two years to re-catalogue every item in its selection. In early 2024, the library officially unveiled self-checkout stations to its patrons.

Heilman said self-checkout stations give people at the library more choice for how they want to engage with it.

“I think rural libraries in particular are really a lifeblood to a community. It’s a place where people have civic conversations, learn new things, come to events and read and just socialize,” Heilman said.

Or, Heilman said, people can come into the library and keep to themself. Having a self-checkout station allows them to do that.

“You can come to the library to interact with the community or you can go and you can be private if that’s what you’re in the mood for,” Heilman said.