Darien Library, Connecticut, constantly harnesses new technology to push the boundaries of what a modern library is. One of their most successful ventures is library automation, which enabled the library to expand and expedite its services without an increase in staffing.
In conjunction with the construction of a new building, Darien Library seized the chance to create a step change in efficiency and community service. Due to the library’s growing popularity, collection levels were inexorably rising and they were finding constraints in staffing, necessitating a reinvention of the customer service concept. Being no strangers to technology, the library management was aware of the potential of automation in raising efficiencies, and they were looking for the best way to unlock it.
Based on a thorough assessment of three selected vendors, the library’s choice fell on Lyngsoe Systems’ RFID-based Automated Material Handling (AMH) solution.
The infrastructure was designed for automated systems to handle the routine sorting of materials, operating on two floors connected via a conveyor belt. Ergonomically designed carts and trolleys were introduced to speed the process of transporting and shelving materials.
Self-service stations were introduced both inside the building and outside. The external drive-up self-return kiosk enables easy drop-off at patrons’ convenience. As machines took over routine work, many staff members were able to migrate away from clerical work to the knowledge work that provided time and opportunity to inspire and advise customers on their reading choices.
Today, Darien Library is making its mark through excellent and wide-ranging customer service. They attribute this partly to the automation systems that have raised the library’s operational pace and efficiency, making its core services fast and easy to use. The increased speed of service and the self-service options have been well received by patrons; for example, about 40% of returns use the drive-up kiosk.
Automation has enabled the library staff to fulfill their vision for reinventing and amplifying services to the library’s customers. As circulation has continued to increase, materials are back on the shelves faster, and employees are able to spend more time guiding and inspiring the patrons.
Darien Library has 160,000 items in stock and welcomes over 1,300 visitors a day. The busy, highly rated library has the highest per capita circulation in Connecticut, with more than 29 items per resident
checked out each year. Darien Library hosts 1,500 public events per year, with a turnout of over 60,000 people, and offers many other opportunities for learning and cultural experiences. The library believes in the power of technology and invests in new applications whenever possible. The tech-savvy library even has its own Media Lab offering an impressive array of electronic devices for the pleasure and learning of their patrons.