Remodeled Menlo Park library debuts

New technology should improve checkout process

Click on photos to enlarge and see captions.

By Elena Kadvany

Special to the Almanac

A small crowd waited, books in arm, for the main Menlo Park library to re-open on Tuesday (June 19).

After four weeks of renovations, the library at 800 Alma St. re-opened with new carpeting, new radio frequency identification (RFID) scanning technology, and a remodeled lobby with a new front desk and skylight.

"I'm amazed at how it's opened up the lobby," said library director Susan Holmer. "It's brighter, more welcoming, more intuitive."

There are many benefits to the remodel, according to library staff, who say the four new RFID machines should be more efficient than the previous self-checkout machines. Instead of the one-by-one barcode reader, the new machines automatically read the RFID tags installed in the books so they can read more material at a time, explained Ms. Holmer. Patrons can check out up to three books simultaneously.

The RFID tags, installed over the past four weeks in the over 80,000 items in the library's collection, are also more secure than the previous "tattle tape" magnetic system used to prevent theft, according to library staff member Nick Szegda.

With the implementation of the RFID technology at the Menlo Park branch, all of the libraries in San Mateo County are officially converted to this system.

Library users now also have the option to pay fines with a credit or debit card at the library, rather than the previous options of paying with cash there or with a card on the library website at home.

The rectangular slot in the wall that serves as the book return drop has been moved around the corner in anticipation of an automated materials handling system, or an automatic returns machine, that will eventually take its place. It is expected to be installed in 2013.

There are also giant red and green circles on the new carpet in the main area of the library. The circles help people find their way around the library.

"It's a real updating that the building needed," said Ms. Holmer.

The construction for the remodel cost $90,000. The RFID technology was allocated separately at $147,000. The funding came from three sources: the city's capital improvement fund for the carpet; a library bond measure for the circulation area; and the public library fund and general fund for the RFID equipment and software.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thank you Menlo Park for all the updates to our library!!

Like this comment
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I was at the library yesterday. No improvement visible. The lobby looks bare and less inviting than before. The old scanning devices worked perfectly. $237,000 was wasted.

Like this comment
Posted by Retired Librarian
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Wonder if the "self check in machine" planned for the future will pay for itself within 5 years? Ten? Given the rise of e-books, it seems physical materials will not be going round as often and that purchase needs to be re-visited.

Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Norman: "$237,000 was wasted"

Please tell me that you added an extra zero in there by mistake.

Like this comment
Posted by Read the article before commenting!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

The construction for the remodel cost $90,000, which included carpet, furniture, and renovation to move the book slot, and probably other items.

The RFID technology was allocated separately at $147,000. RFID tags were installed in 80,000 items. More secure to prevent theft, allows for much faster checkout.

Any change costs substantial money. Seems like a good investment to me!

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