New kiosks at Siouxland Libraries part of broader behind-the-scenes upgrade
High-tech sorting machines make the process more efficient and require less staff time at the 13 locations.
SIOUX FALLS — The Siouxland Libraries system has put in place $620,000 in upgrades to make the flow and sorting of books and other materials more efficient.
Customers of the libraries in Sioux Falls and surrounding communities will notice the updated self-checkout kiosks, with improved lighting and touch-screen graphics, accessibility for those in wheelchairs and 38 different languages, if you include “pirate.”
But behind the scenes are new sorting machines that further automate the process of checking materials back in and sorting them for dispersal to their home locations.
It was a needed upgrade for the system, which has 13 locations in the city and surrounding communities, said Monique Christensen, assistant director for the libraries. Visitors and circulation are rising with the metro population growth and have returned to pre-COVID levels, she said.
The old machines required each book to be scanned and then sorted by hand. Books can be checked out at any location and returned to another so sorting and returning materials is a big job.
Also, the old machines were more than 10 years old.
“We were starting to see mechanical failures and a lot of down time,” Christensen said.
The new system reduces the amount of touches and time required, she said.
The upgrade also eliminates a step where the materials had to be moved from the sorter bin into another tote used by the couriers who go from location to location. Now they go right into the transportation tote.
Plus, once all the materials are in that tote, only one piece needs to be scanned at the home location and everything in that load is checked in.
“It’s taking all that sorting away from the staff needing to do it and putting it in the hands of a machine,” Christensen said.
There are 17 new self check-out kiosks in eight of the library locations. There are five new sorters with increased capacity, particularly in the system’s hub in downtown Sioux Falls.
The city had budgeted $933,000 for the upgrade but the final cost came in more than $300,000 under the plan, Christensen said.
The need is growing, despite the predictions of the demise of libraries at the onset of the digital revolution.
The Siouxland Libraries experienced substantial growth in January and February as compared to last year, including:
- Walk-in visitors: 10%
- Circulation: 7.5%
- Computer use: 39.3%
- Number of programs: 23.4%
- Program attendance: 101.5%
- New library cards issued: 24%
- Website and catalog use: 13.7%
“We often have customers coming in and they’re coming from some other place, they’ve migrated to Sioux Falls and they are excited to see the library system that we have here,” Christensen said.
COVID restrictions and the subsequent reluctance of many people to visit public places definitely decreased library use but that has come back. Perhaps one of the benefits from the pandemic is that people are more aware of the electronic services the libraries offer, she said.
“Our electronic checkouts are doubling and tripling so a lot of people are going to the e-books and the e-audios,” she said. “That’s still a service that we provide for free to the residents.”