By Dominic Harris
BOOKWORMS and music buffs can now get their hands on the objects of their affections a little quicker in Bristol’s libraries, thanks to the arrival of self-service machines.
Four self-service machines were used for the first time at the Central Library yesterdayMON, and another three will open at Henleaze library today.
The new self-service machines will allow library users to borrow and return books, CDs and DVDs in less than a minute, and means they will not have to queue to be served.
The touch-screen machines in the Central Library are next to the entrances. Users simply scan their items and follow the instructions on the touch-screen.
The machines can be used for checking items in and out, checking reservations and for paying fines and reservation fees, as well as paying charges for hiring items such as CDs.
As well as helping customers beat queues, the machines will give staff more time to deal with queries.
The £650,000 scheme has involved more than 400,000 books being tagged with special bar codes by a team of six staff over the last two months.
The self-service system is being introduced into 19 of Bristol’s 28 libraries; 15 libraries will have the machines by the end of this year, and all 19 libraries on the list will have them by the end of September 2012.
Councillor Simon Cook, cabinet member for culture, sport and capital projects, opened the new machines at the Central Library – with a little help from two-year-old Leonie Saunders, who used them to get out a new book, Flop Ear And His Friends.
Mr Cook said: “This is a real step forward in how we deliver library services. Our investment in new technology will free up our library staff to help readers and visitors with their inquiries and research requests.
“The new machines are the latest version of self-service technology and as such will be a big improvement on the average machine available in a typical bank or supermarket.”
Customers were quick to use the new machines, and staff were on hand to guide them through the simple processes.
Monica Bremner, 90, from St Andrew’s, has been using Bristol’s libraries for 80 years. Despite her failing eyesight she still likes a good book or audio CD – and found the machines easy to use.
She said: “I have been using the libraries since I was 10, and used to read a book a day. I was scared to go in then – you didn’t speak to anyone, and if you made too much noise you would be thrown straight out.
“Before these machines we would just go to the desk. They are easy to use, and I even managed it without my glasses, as I could get close to the screen and read it.
“It is much easier than a bank machine and the instructions don’t rush you and are clear. The options are highly visible to make it easier for older people, so they should make things quicker for us.”
Jenny Saunders, 43, from Cliftonwood, came in with her daughters Leonie, two, and baby Keira.
She said: “We come to the library every fortnight for story time, a storytelling group for toddlers.
“The new machines are excellent. Leonie loves gadgets, so it will be another toy for her to play with.
“When you come in with toddlers you can’t be dilly-dallying around in queues while they are running around and getting lost among the books. Now Leonie can get involved and enjoy it, which is better for me as well.”
Graham Grout, 52, from St Anne’s Park, also liked the machines.
He said: “I think they are pretty swish, a good step forward. They are simple to use, quite quick and user friendly. You just throw your book in, scan your card and you are done, really. It couldn’t be much easier.”
Bristol libraries marketing manager Stephen King said the counters would still be available as a back-up.