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Kingston Frontenac Public Library could pilot a ‘staffless’ library program

The Pittsburgh Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. Archive photo. Mike Postovit / Global News

Checking out your books without a librarian? It might not be that far-fetched an idea after the most recent Kingston Frontenac Public Library meeting.

The Library Board will be asking city council for $100,000 to pilot an ‘extended hours’ program at the Pittsburgh branch.

The plan to try out a ‘staffless library’ initiative will rely heavily on new technology to go ahead, and that’s what the funding would cover.

Library users would scan in and out of the building and would use self-service check-in and check-out for library materials.

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But some, including more than a dozen who picketed outside the central branch while the meeting took place, are voicing concerns over the proposed plan.

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“It introduces a situation of risk for clients who are there without any support,” Library relief worker Deanna MacDonald said. “They don’t get the quality of service that they would want.

“There may in fact be safety issues related to having people in buildings without any staff available to assist them.”

Library staff say the program, which is already being used in other Ontario cities, would only be accessible to those who sign up for the service.

“The way Hamilton has implemented it is that it is an opt-in system. So you need to agree to the terms and conditions of the service where you are acknowledging that staff may not be present,” library CEO Laura Carter said.

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Another concern is the impact this could have on the number of library workers. But according to the library, this isn’t a precursor to a completely staffless facility. In fact, the ‘self-serve’ hours will be in addition to the branch’s regular hours of service.

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“Reduction of staff hours at the branch is not planned. That is not the goal of this, it’s to expand access,” Carter said.

She adds that the initiative would only be put in place to improve access for library users in the east end, allowing residents improved access outside of normal operating hours.

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