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AUSTIN EDITION -- Austin library to purchase check-out machine

Second machine will free staff time

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

Checking out books at the Austin Public Library will soon require little assistance.

At Monday's meting, the library board approved the purchase of a second self-check-out machine.

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Library Director Ann Hokanson made the recommendation to buy the machine, saying it would help free up staff and allow the library to do more community outreach activities.

The machine costs $22,000. "It looks a lot like the one we have now, but the new one will be able to check out videos, which the old one can't," Hokanson said.

The funds to pay for the machine will come from the Wienke Fund interest. On a yearly basis, the fund has generated interest varying between $55,000 and $60,000, Hokanson said.

Some board members worried the library's staff would lose the connection with its patrons. With the machine, people can follow the directions to check out the item without much assistance.

Hokanson said there would be someone available and in charge of describing how the machine works.

"We will make sure we devote some staff time for the unit."

The staff time freed up by the machine will be used to arrange activities, such as reading programs with the YMCA and programing for those who are homebound.

In other business, the board reviewed the library's 2002 annual report.

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Overall, the report showed an increases in circulation, library visits, interlibrary loans, personnel costs and total operating budget.

Of all the increases, the use of electronic resources had the most dramatic numbers. In 2001, 390 people used the computers. In 2002, the users grew to 768.

In circulation, the numbers changed from 280,219 in 2001 to 304,004 in 2002. Hokanson said that the figure is not exceptional to Austin, but more of a nationwide occurrence. During hard economic times, people tend to visit their local library more often, Hokanson said. "This seems to be holding true at this time," Hokanson said.

The total spending for 2002 was $879,123, compared to $789,794 in 2001. Hokanson said the library included some tutoring expenses in 2002 that were not included in the 2001 report. The expenses paid for the former community librarian, plus books and other materials she used.

"We spent the money in those activities but did not include them in the 2001 report. That's why the figures are larger for 2002," Hokanson said.

The board will meet again in June.

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