Library: Machines not taking over |

Library: Machines not taking over

Librarian Sarah Bates helps Radomir Biljetina of Gardnerville with the new self-checkout procedure at the Douglas County Library Friday morning.
Brad Coman

To see the new technology first hand, visit the Douglas County Public Library in Minden at 1625 Library Lane, or in South Lake Tahoe at 233 Warrior Way, Zephyr Cove. You can also visit their website at

Sometimes, standing in lines at the library can be time consuming, especially when there’s a toddler severely in need of naptime, or a frazzled student on a deadline for an essay, which—whoops—they forgot about until the last minute.

Now patrons can simply walk in, grab their items, plop them in a stack on a specialized table top, and waltz out, all in a manner of seconds.

The Douglas County Public Library is celebrating National Library Week with a new technological addition, Radio Frequency Identification self-checkout machines.

The new program works with the installation of tiny microchips, about the size of rice grains, into the labels of books. When the books are placed in a stack upon the scanning pad, the software is able to pick up the transmission from the microchips tiny antennas and log them into the system.

The chip works both as a method of inventory as well as a security device. When the books are scanned, it also disarms the anti-theft mechanism within the microchips, similarly to removing the security tag when purchasing clothing from a department store.

“The new system is running smoothly,” said Library Director Amy Dodson. “Our patrons are really enjoying oit. They realized first-hand how simple it is to use. Specifically, that they can scan many books at once without hassle.”

The library actually installed the software at the end of March, but wanted to wait to publically announce it until they had smoothed out any bugs. The National Library Week celebration was the perfect opportunity to unveil the new system.

“The pubic responded really well. They realized it’s so easy to use; easier than an ATM actually.”

The library was partially able to initiate the new system with help from a grant given by the Smallwood Foundation.

The rest came from their own budget.

The most difficult part of the transition, however, was not the installation itself. The software itself only took three days to install. The new labeling of the inventory took nearly six months to finish. They began microchipping at the Lake Tahoe Library Branch first, as it was smaller—with only 20,000 items of the 125,000 the branches hold together—and had shorter hours, allowing staff to spend more time on inventory.

“We were able to finish earlier than originally planned because of the excellent staff,” Dodson said. “We have a great team here. They work so well with each other, and were very impressive in finishing ahead of schedule.”

This technology is not new to nationwide libraries, however.

Larger libraries began using it in the early 2000s, and have been spreading ever since. Dodson was first introduced to the system in 2008, and when she took the position as director at the Douglas County Library in December of 2014, initiating the transition to this new form of check-out was one of the first projects discussed.

Though the public responded well to the installation, many were very concerned about how the new technology would affect the librarians themselves.

“Patrons were worried about machines taking over, pushing out the humans, but that’s not the case. We assured them our jobs weren’t in jeopardy from the system,” Dodson said. “We are still needed.”

Library patrons who are more comfortable with personalized, traditional checkouts will not be turned away. Librarians are also more than happy to demonstrate how the new self-checkout machines work to the public at any time.

In addition to the new system debut, in celebration of National Library Week, the Library also has personalized tote bags, pens, and other goodies to give away while supplies last.