How to keep libraries relevant in a digital age is the challenge of library systems everywhere. The Brooklyn Public Library is making changes to try and keep up.
It's the newest chapter in borrowing a book: do-it-yourself checkout. Users scan their library card, then the books and a receipt prints out the date they're due back.
"It's easy and new and better than before," said one person who used it.
"It was very simple and easy, so it's a lot better than having to go through the checkout that we used to do," said a second.
When returning, there is no need for a high-tech gadget. Residents just use the good old-fashioned book drop.
The Brooklyn Public Library's Homecrest branch was closed for a month to get the technology upgrade that included the two new self-check service machines. All 60 branches in the Brooklyn system are on tap to get the scanners. They'll help free up staff to do other tasks.
"By September, about 30 of them will have self check," said Linda Johnson, the president of the Brooklyn Public Library. "And it requires the libraries to close for about four weeks to do the renovations and the installations. So we're trying to stagger it in a way that two libraries that are close to one another aren't closed at the same time."
The rollout of the machines is funded through approximately $2 million in state money designated by the Brooklyn delegation of the Assembly.
"C cap money is capital dollars that the legislature gives out to different organizations," said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz. "We decided as a delegation to pool our resources and give it to the Brooklyn Public Library."
Self-checkout is one of the many high-tech additions to the library system. There are also computer catalogs, kiosks used to pay fees, lending of ebooks and online access, including eight branches that allow visitors to borrow laptops.
"We are actually loaning laptops that have been acquired through federal funding through the recovery act," Johnson said. "That has been extremely helpful in reaching families living below the poverty level and teaching them very basic skills."
Johnson said technology is the key to the library's future. Every branch should have self-checkout services by the fall of 2013.