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Manatee works to bring self-checkout to libraries

The Manatee County Public Library System hopes to have at least one self-checkout machine at each library by July.

Braden River Library is one of seven locations in the Manatee County Public Library System.
Braden River Library is one of seven locations in the Manatee County Public Library System.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Cathy Habora, a library assistant at Braden River Library, picked up a children’s book, scanned its barcode and added a radio-frequency identification tag. 

One by one, Habora scanned each book to ensure it would be a part of the Manatee County Public Library System’s inventory and ready for the library system’s technology upgrades planned for this year. 

More than a dozen library staff members were at Braden River Library Jan. 10-13 tagging each book, DVD and other items in the library with an radio-frequency identification tag.

“We’re beginning to see progress,” Habora said.

Crystal Hendriex and Cathy Habora, who are library assistants at Braden River Library, work to tag every book in the children's section of the library. "We're beginning to see progress," Habora says.
Photo by Liz Ramos

The tagging of the library’s inventory is a part of the Manatee County Public Library’s Systems preparations to bring in self-checkout machines to each of its seven library branches. Self-checkout machines also will be available at the Lakewood Ranch Library once it opens. 

Andy Sulavik, the head of technical services for the library system, said the library system has been working to bring self-checkout machines to the libraries for the past two years. 

“Manatee County is moving from the best 20th century technology to the best 21st century technology,” he said. 

Lyn Begraft, the assistant library services manager, said there are several benefits to having a self-checkout machine, including convenience, privacy and providing staff with more time to spend interacting with residents. The machines will be able to check out several books at once. 

“It’s just adding another layer of our customer service model that we feel is coming at an important time and will allow for enhancements for the library system overall,” Begraft said. “We enjoy building relationships with our patrons, so we’re hoping this will take it to the next level in being able to spend some more time with them.”

In the third week of March, Sulavik said FE Technologies, Tech Logistics and Bibliotheca are bringing their self-checkout machines to Central Library for staff members and selected members of the public to test out each machine and provide feedback before the county selects which machines to purchase. 

“Each of them has very different functionality,” Sulavik said. “We want to make sure that, whichever one we choose, both the staff and the public can use them intuitively.”

Sulavik said each machine can range between $10,000 and $15,000. He said the county expects to purchase at least 14 machines.

Sulavik said the target goal for having at least two machines installed at each library is July. Begraft said although there is a self checkout machine, there will still be someone at the circulation desk to assist in checking items out of the library. 

“I know sometimes people think if you’re having a self check, then you don’t need a person at the circulation desk and that job is going to be eliminated,” she said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Circulation is just one key piece of what we do.”

Jill Eisenbeis, a library assistant at Braden River Library, works through the children's nonfiction section.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Although a majority of Braden River Library’s inventory was tagged while the library was closed Jan. 10-13, Begraft said tagging will be an ongoing process as hundreds of books and other items were being used by residents at the time and will need to be tagged when they are returned. 

Manatee County Public Library System has nearly 500,000 items that need to be tagged. 

“The staff library system wide has been giving their all to get the project done efficiently and with as minimal impact to the communities they’re serving as possible,” Begraft said. 

Any new inventory that goes into the libraries will already be tagged, so library staff won’t have to do it, Sulivak said. 

The library provided curbside service while it was closed for the technology upgrades.

Other technology upgrades coming to the libraries include an upgrade of the computer management system, remote printing and color copiers. 

“It’s exciting the transformation that is going to take place between now and the third week of March,” Sulavik said. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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