Self-service booths on way to libraries

Staff have been assured there would be no compulsory redundancies in a £1.7m overhaul which will see self-service machines installed in more than half of Norfolk's libraries - including those at Thetford, Diss, Wymondham and Attleborough.

Staff have been assured there would be no compulsory redundancies in a £1.7m overhaul which will see self-service machines installed in more than half of Norfolk's libraries - including those at Thetford, Diss, Wymondham and Attleborough.

The new machines, which enable users to issue and return items, will be placed in 24 of 47 libraries within the next few months to help speed up the service and free up staff for customer inquiries.

The county council insisted this would not lead to staff losing their jobs but admitted the equivalent of 10 full-time posts would be lost to natural wastage over the next two years. Vacancies will not be advertised when they crop up at certain branches.

Jennifer Holland, head of the library and information service, said: “The move to introduce self-service machines in libraries is aimed at providing a quicker and more efficient service to an ever-increasing number of library visitors.

“In introducing the machines, we are able to cut the amount of time people wait for their books to be issued or returned. This frees up staff time to be able to support customers to find the books and information they need, and to help them to use computers.

“While this technology will be new to many of the libraries, the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library at the Forum has had self-service machines since it opened in 2001 and a number of other large libraries have had a different style of self-service for some years.”

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She added that the machines that were being introduced, including at Norwich, were more advanced than the original machines and able to issue and return a number of items in one go.

They are designed to be used by young children through to older members of the community, and can be adapted in the future to cater for different languages and the partially-sighted.

Seven libraries - Poringland, Downham Market, Cromer, Sheringham, Wroxham, King's Lynn and Sprowston - have already got the machines up and running.

“Once people have got used to the system, both staff and library users are finding them easy, and efficient, to use,” added Ms Holland.

“These improvements are simply a way of us adapting to this climate, in order for us to continue to offer an efficient, yet customer focused, service to everyone in Norfolk over the coming years.”

The new machines will be installed at Gaywood, Fakenham, Aylsham, Yarmouth, Hellesdon, North Walsham, Wymondham, Dereham, Hunstanton, Gorleston, Attleborough, Diss, Taverham, Costessey, Norwich and Thetford.