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Improved technology heading toward the Decatur Public Library

Decatur Public Library
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DECATUR — The Decatur Public Library will be moving ahead with a plan to improve the use of technology in the process of patrons borrowing materials.

The library board gave City Librarian Rick Meyer its approval Thursday to proceed with the process to install a radio frequency identification, or RFID, system without the need to go through competitive bidding. The board cited the complexity of the project as to why a competitive bidding process is not needed.

Meyer plans to work with Bibliotheca on the project, with the hope to finish it by the start of the library's summer reading program or wait until later in the summer for completion so installation doesn't interfere with one of the busiest times of year for visitors to the library.

“We're convinced it's right to do,” Meyer said about the upgrades. “It's going to help us a lot.”

Tech Logic Corp. is the other company library officials have been considering for the work.

The board had previously approved in September the approximately $350,000 expenditure for the project, with about $200,000 coming from the Decatur Public Library Foundation and the remaining portion from the library's reserves before later being paid back through the foundation's fundraising.

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The RFID system will allow for materials to recirculate quicker than the current system with less handling of the items needed, Meyer said. Returned materials will be checked back instantly so library staff will know it's been returned when the patron goes to check out additional items, he said.

In addition, Meyer said all books will be able to be checked in at once instead of one at a time.

“It will greatly increase our efficiency,” Meyer said. “It takes a lot of staff hours just to get things back out there.”

A test of self-checkout kiosks in recent weeks showed the system should be easy to use, Meyer said.

In other business, the board approved a plan sell its three bookmobiles through an auction process. The board set a bottom price it would like to receive in return for the vehicles but did not disclose the price after meeting in closed session.

The bookmobiles were last used in 2010 before being shut down amid budget cuts and layoffs. While in use, the bookmobiles reached residents throughout the community.

Meyer said the library would like to be able to use the bookmobiles but having the needed staff to operate the vehicles is not in the budget. Among the items on Meyer's wish list is what he called a “Red Box” option for materials to be checked in and out at locations throughout the city.

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