Question: I am puzzled. The circulation workroom is full of empty carts. Circulation is way down and now, with the floating collection and e-books, the volume should shrink even more. Why is the library spending the $1 ($2?) million for an automated circulation return system at Central Library, particularly in these hard economic times? Seems like that money could be better spent on, say, raises??
Answer by David Palmer, Public Services Manager: Literally hundreds of public libraries in the United States have implemented Automated Materials Handling (AMH) with great success. It can be found at Portsmouth's Churchland Branch and it is coming soon to the new Slover Library in downtown Norfolk. Not only does AMH reduce check-in workload, it also prevents repetitive motion injuries and speeds up the delivery of library materials into the hands of our customers,
Our overall circulation is quite stable, even with the introduction and popularity of e-books. After attending the recent American Library Association conference, I can assure you that no publisher or leader in the library profession believes that the book is going away anytime soon.
The purchase and installation of the AMH system is funded through the Capital Improvement Projects budget. That money cannot be spent on daily operational costs such as salaries. The decision to move forward with AMH was made after the completion of two separate ROI (return on investment) studies, both of which showed that VBPL could pay for the system in 3 years. This year we did eliminate 6 vacant positions to help pay for the system.
Staff may be tight right now because of AMH but when the system becomes operational throughout the department by the end of the year, we will wonder how we ever lived without it. Some of the same questions and concerns were expressed about implementing online catalogs and self-checkout and we can't imagine life without those efficiencies.
You will soon be able to see AMH in operation when the new TCC/City of Virginia Beach Joint Use Library opens next month.