Steinway Library: Ahead of the Times

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in On The Street | 0 comments

Chao

Daybook 2

September 6, 2011

Word Count: 544

At the Queens Public Library, Broadway Branch in Long Island City, bibliophiles and computer users can coexist in harmony.  In recent years, the Queens Library has undergone a major technological reinvention, making the checkout process infinitely easier and even svelte, something that doesn’t come to mind when you hear the word “library.” Case in point: the intuitive self-checkout process, which can essentially be completed with one hand tied behind the back, illustrates how far the library has come since it first opened back in 1858.

The checkout kiosk, which consists of a white sensor-detecting vinyl pad, allows for multiple items to be taken out in one transaction. David Roycroft, who has been working at the QBPL for six years, said the system, which the staff refers to as “RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology,” has been generally well received. “There’s always going to be some resistance, because humans are resistant to change. But we used to have long lines at the circulation desks, and the RFID system has pretty much eliminated them.”

The technology has also allowed the library to phase out checkout clerks, though “we still need two clerks at the desk, sometimes the machines jam, sometimes a sensor is missing. If we hadn’t implemented technology, we would feel more short-staffed than we already do.” Patrons can also return items 24/7 via an ATM-style book drop, which scans the item with a visible strip of red light, slides it into the receiving area with a small conveyor belt, and whips up a receipt showing which items were returned.

Each library has also undergone a physical renovation, spearheaded by former marketing director Thomas Galante, who had ad agency experience. A new, vibrant and colorful palette based on citrine colors was introduced, in contrast to the blue/gray scheme of yesteryear. This is evident in the quilt-like floor tiles, which come in teal, yellow, red and gray, as well as the complimentary (bags were not free before renovations) QBPL plastic bags. The bags, which are emblazoned with the new slogan “Enrich Your Life,” has “created a lot of awareness,” said Roycroft.

Modern, Ikea-style single couches and striped gray and white carpeting flank the magazine area. Most of the walls are painted in white stucco, though a partition in the middle of the building sports a bright crimson hue. The librarian station is situated in between the workstations, and a roomy expanse between the checkout area and bookshelves creates a space conducive to work and study. Power ports are situated directly on top of the black inset, beech-wood colored workstation tables in a neat little black protrusion, which resembles a sphere that has been sliced in half by the table.

All Queens libraries now have at least four flat-screen Dell computer stations for patrons. The card catalogue has been done away with, replaced by an online search engine. Print jobs can be completed via a delegated program that allows for a maximum of 20 sheets per visit. In order to use the tech-friendly services, a PIN must be assigned and entered upon postulation.

Above all, Roycroft says that the library is a meeting place of sorts. “People come to the library so that they can be with people, rather than stay home alone. Human contact is very important.”

 

Source: David Roycroft, 64, droycroft@gmail.com.

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