Offering library services can be challenge when buildings and spaces are closed. We have visited many libraries around the world and talked with librarians who have worked on self service solutions. Years ago, we developed a small branch for the Onondaga Public Library that consisted of a vending machine and a monitor to connect with a librarian for help. The set up was pretty simple and effective, offering and extending library services where the county could not add services.
We believe that safe libraries can include self service strategies. This can enhance and reinforce library services; new approaches for a difficult time. It can also help you push new services; ones that meet the user needs today.
Many libraries already use self services and have benefited from it. For example, The Mount Vernon Public Library developed a self service kiosk in 2019. They wanted to offer services when the library was closed. See article about the opening of the vending machine Distributing Books with Vending Machines. We think that they can add a monitor to talk with patrons and there could be a link set up to a librarian who is in a safe environment. It is the next logical step in their evolution to provide safe library services.
From a designers point of view, we need to design social distancing into our library plans. We need to start by assessing essential library functions. The CDC tells us, we must plan for space at least 6 feet (2 meters) from each person. Indeed, libraries need to identify alternative strategies to provide services. They need to prioritize safe ways to distribute collections to customers/patrons. Of course, safe library strategies should include digital alternatives, where possible, but it can include safe ways to provide those kids, teens and adults with the tools they need.
Here at Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD we developed a library of accessible design requirements for library vending machines. We studied self service kiosks and vending machines and wish to share our knowledge.
Here are some considerations:
1. Vending machine widths vary from 36″, 40″, to 42″.
2. Vending machines height can be from 72 inches to 42 inches.
3. All controls and operating machines need to be secured and anchored.
4. Controls should be operable with one hand and easy to use. Sanitary policies including sprays and wipes need to be integrated into the plan.
5. Create safe staff and patron workflows; ones that clearly informs the patron of the safe way to use the self service library.
Offer patrons new safe ways to use your library when the building closed.