Automated entry could add hours for Coalville library without adding staff
The Coalville branch of the Summit County Library has the fewest staff members and is open the fewest hours of any branch in the system.
Adding employees is tough on the budget, Summit County library director Dan Compton said, but he’s a firm believer that everybody should be able to use the library’s offerings at a time that’s convenient for them.
For Coalville library patrons, if that’s not between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, they’re out of luck.
But Compton has an idea to change that, and he recently got the go-ahead to pursue a grant that would allow the library to extend its hours without adding staff time.
The Open+ program would enable patrons to scan their card at the door and enter the library even when no librarian is on duty. There would be security cameras that librarians in other branches could monitor, and the service would be restricted to hours other branches are open, at least initially.
Compton said when he heard about the idea, “I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. … This is really, really innovative. It could be a game-changer.”
His proposal is to extend the hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for most of the week and close at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays for a total of 22 extra hours each week. He said hiring more staff would be ideal, but this way would be cheaper in the long term and free for the first three years because of grant funding.
Plus, he said there are questions about whether current staffers would want to work those early-morning or evening hours, and it might require hiring two part-timers.
Compton received approval to apply for the grant from the County Council at Wednesday’s meeting. The grant comes from the Utah State Library, which receives money from the federal government for outreach to underserved communities. He estimated he’d ask for $12,000, which would be enough to cover the purchase, installation and maintenance of the security camera system and the access point on the doors.
If it’s successful and the county would like it to continue past three years, it would need to allocate that $12,000 annual cost itself, or find a partner to do so.
Patrons who want to take advantage of the program must opt in, attend an orientation and sign an agreement acknowledging the rules and conduct policy.
Though security was one of the most common refrains in a survey the library circulated about the project, Compton is more sanguine about the effort.
“People who are going to use it are going to love it,” Compton said. “It’s a privilege, they’re not going to abuse it. Hopefully they take ownership — it’s their library, their tax dollars paid for it.”
And as for the librarians at the Kimball Junction branch watching the goings-on in Coalville, Compton doesn’t imagine they’ll be glued to the sets watching patrons’ every move. Instead, he thinks it will involve periodic check-ins, an announcement at closing time and monitoring to make sure everyone clears out when they should.
This isn’t the first time Compton has used this type of grant. The book lockers in Henefer were paid for with a $27,600 award from the same source, along with donations from Summit County and Henefer itself.
Both services are offered by the same company, bibliotecha, and Compton said he’s been excited about the prospect since one of the people he worked with on the book locker mentioned it.
They both fit the same mission, Compton said, of increasing access to the library, igniting curiosity and creating lifelong learners.
“I don’t think it should matter where you live, you should have access to a library and be able to have the ability to learn whatever you want and have it available at convenient times so you can actually partake of it,” Compton said. “You are paying taxes for the service — we want to make it available to as many people as possible.”
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The planning committee and the newly formed task forces will continue to work on the master planning priorities and will present to the Board of Education at its meeting Dec. 17.