California libraries launch pioneering automated service: Library-a-Go-Go and Go Library

Originally from Sweden where they are called “Bokamaten” machines, the United States’ first automated book lending machines are in California. With support from the California State Library through a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, this summer two libraries—Contra Costa County Library and Yuba County Library—each have the robotic machines which check-out and check-in materials to library card holders in busy or remote spots where there are no library branches.

Called Library a-Go-Go in Contra Costa, and GoLibrary in Yuba County, each free standing book lending device holds up to 500 books. The self-contained collections target the demographic of each machine's location. In Contra Costa, for example, the Pittsburgh Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station Library-a-Go-Go includes popular adult and young adult fiction and non-fiction books which interest commuters. The soon-to-open Library-a-Go-Go in the family-friendly Discovery Bay mall will offer more children’s books. And Yuba County’s Go Library in rural Wheatland’s community center, which is also opening soon, will hold books appealing to both residents of the nearby senior center, and to families using the neighboring athletic field.

Automated service good for urban and rural communities

This unique California libraries project is funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)/LSTA grant via the California State Library. The equipment purchase was coordinated by Califa, a membership-based California library network and service consortium designed for cost effective delivery of services.

After the Contra Costa County Library, which serves 917,886 residents, submitted a grant proposal to acquire the automatic equipment for the busy Contra Costa BART station, State Librarian Susan Hildreth quickly saw how the machine would also benefit rural California communities with few or no branches. At Hildreth’s direction, the California State Library included the smaller, rural Yuba County Library, which serves 66,734 residents, in the project. “The automated lending machine project is an excellent opportunity” Hildreth says, ”to gauge how this futuristic technology might serve both urban and rural environments.”

Contra Costa and Yuba County partners

Both Contra Costa and Yuba County have attracted partners to help launch their innovative book lending stations. The Contra Costa County Library has partnered with BART, a local shopping center and the Bay Area Library and Information System (BALIS) to incorporate Library-a-Go-Go into the fast-growing East Bay’s community hubs. The Yuba County Library north of Sacramento has partnered with a city-owned community center near a baseball park and senior retirement village in the town of Wheatland where the unit there has been installed on the center’s external wall and will be available 24/7.

Cathy Sanford, project coordinator for the Contra Costa County Library, and Loren MccRory, director of the Yuba County Library, both report the project has already generated media attention, as well as enthusiasm among staff, community and local government officials. Contra Costa County supervisor Federal Glover spoke at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station launch on Thursday, May 29, 2009, an event to which the Contra Costa Times gave upbeat coverage. State Librarian of California Susan Hildreth also attended the launch. “The first four days after opening [on May 29], we loaned 45 books,” says Sanford. "We see this as a way to put the fundamental resources of a library into our smaller communities," says MccRory

Califa provides further information about the GoLibrary equipment and operation at http://califa.org/golibrary.php. Or please contact Susan Kantor-Horning, Califa Library Group at (650) 863-6552 or email at skantor@califa.org.
  

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