Orange County Library Station offers vending machine for books and movies

redbox_library

The Orange County Library now offers a new library station where visitors can check out books, similar to a Redbox with videos. It is the first one on the West Coast. Photo courtesy of Libbie Hough. 

Jill Wagy, the systems manager for the Orange County Public Library system, said the library station is the first of its kind on the eastern coast of the United States. It operates like a vending machine for books and movies.

“Everything fits on a tray inside and then the tray gets delivered to the door and you pick your item out and then the tray goes back into the machine,” Wagy said.

“It’s really a fascinating machine.”

The idea for the kiosk came after the closing of a smaller library branch in Cedar Grove due to limited usage and the need for building repairs.

Library Director Lucinda Munger still wanted to offer library services to the area, and after seeing a prototype of the machine at a library conference, she sent a proposal to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. The proposal was then approved.

Since its debut in June, the library station allows for 24/7 access to more than 250 books and DVDs, ranging from children’s books to bestselling novels and materials written in Spanish.

“We’re able to get real time data about what materials are being checked out the most, and we can tweak it as we go along,” Munger said. “If we see that there is a collection that has really taken off out there, we can put more of it in the station and if a collection is doing bad, we can reduce those numbers and put in something more popular.”

Wagy said the collection housed inside the library station is called a “lucky day” collection due to the fluctuation in inventory.

“You can’t see (the inventory) in our online catalogue, you have to go up there and search,” Wagy said. “We have the bestsellers and the top movies, so the idea is when you come up and it’s sitting there, it’s your lucky day.”

According to the Orange County Capital Investment Plan (CIP), the cost of installing the library station kiosk was $180,000 and annual operating costs are $40,000. Munger said these costs are more efficient than operating a small stand-alone library branch at the same site.

Libbie Hough, communications specialist for Orange County Public Library system, said she hopes to raise community awareness about what the library station offers.

“I think people are more comfortable with getting movies at this point because that’s something they’ve done other places,” Hough said.

“So part of what we’ll need to do is promote our book collection that is out there more and have folks get more comfortable with getting books the same way that they can get movies.”

Despite some initial struggles due to the newness of the machine, Wagy said she believes kiosks like this will become popular in the future.

“The integrated system that runs our libraries actually made some changes on their end because they feel like this is going to be the future of other libraries and they wanted to be prepared,” Wagy said.

“I’m in touch with other librarians across the state, and I’ve heard they are very interested in it.”

Munger is excited for what the library station means for Orange County.

“This is there for the community, and we really hope that people use it and provide us with feedback on how they like it and what we can put in it to really make it work for that community,” she said.

@molly_horak

city@dailytarheel.com

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