By Joy Hampton
The Moore American
NORMAN — The first 24-hour automated library in the United States was installed in Norman Friday at Irving Recreational Center on Vicksburg Avenue. The library is similar to the movie box concept and will hold a combination of 400 books, audiobooks and DVDs.
“We’re so excited,” said Lisa Wells, assistant director for Library Services.
The automated library was purchased through EnvisionWare, a company that sells public computer access to the Pioneer Library system and recently installed a book sorter at the new westside library satellite. That satellite branch will open soon.
The automated library was manufactured in China where hundreds of the 24-hour libraries are located, many of them near subways.
The library provides public access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People will be able to browse the book selection and check out materials, return books, audiobooks and DVDs, pay fines with credit cards or pick up materials placed on hold.
Browsing any of the 11 Pioneer Library System locations, library patrons can reserve materials and designate the new automated library as the pickup point.
Built-in security cameras will protect the contents and the machine from vandals. A canopy with transparent, polycarbonate panels on three sides will protect the machine and patrons from the elements. The machine is ADA accessible and has a screen at wheelchair height.
“The city partnered with PLS on the canopy installation, the concrete and pad work and the electrical,” said Terry Floyd, city development coordinator.
The machines are proprietary to the Chinese manufacturer.
“Nobody else manufactures a product like this, that we know of, in the world,” said Jim Nelson of EnvisionWare.
It’s a case of necessity being the catalyst for invention.
“In China, we don’t have the space to build a new library so this machine is the solution,” said Rooney Zhao, who came to oversee the installation.
Pioneer purchased the initial machine at a discounted price of $95,000. The model delivered Friday is an updated version from the model being sold when PLS ordered the machine months ago. The machine was shipped via boat.
The trip was slow starting. At the dock, Chinese officials randomly pulled out 30 containers for a spot inspection. The automated library was in one of those containers and it missed the boat. The next boat was delayed because of a tropical storm. The 24-7 library finally arrived at a dock in California on Monday and cleared customs on Wednesday. It was trucked to Oklahoma.
Former council members Roger Gallagher, Linda Lockett and Dave Spaulding were instrumental in bringing the new library service point to the eastside. Gallagher, in particular, pushed for an eastside satellite as talks commenced about the new westside satellite opportunity. The westside branch will be housed with PLS administrative services in the former Border’s bookstore.
Gallagher sought a storefront property for an eastside site branch, but the expenses — including the need for materials and library staff — made the cost prohibitive. City plans include an eastside satellite in the community center slated to be built adjacent to Fire Station No. 9 on Alameda east of 24th Avenue Southeast.