County library wins state award for express service

The 2011 Association of Minnesota Counties presented the Washington and Carver counties Libraries Express Service with an Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Achievement Award at its 2011 AMC Annual Conference in downtown Minneapolis Dec. 5.

The Washington County Library Express was installed 18 months ago at the Hugo City Hall to provide access to library materials in that area of Washington County. A computer inside city hall is available for residents to request library materials, which may also be requested from any other computer that has Internet access. Materials are delivered to secure lockers outside city hall, making them available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Express system was also installed in Victoria in Carver County, where it is in a city recreation center. Both counties used a federal Institutes of Museum and Library Services grant of $140,000 to purchase the equipment.Because of the high rate of use, the locker system in Washington County was doubled from 20 to 40 lockers in January 2011. A similar system will soon be installed in Marine on St. Croix and Newport.The possibilities for using self-service library kiosks were first discussed in 2004 when metro area libraries joined with other library systems in greater Minnesota in seeking federal funds for a pilot project. Many libraries from across the state are faced with flat budgets, increased demands for services, and constricted open hours while the cost for construction and personnel continues to escalate. In 2009, Washington County Library and Carver County partnered in applying for a federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant. By joining with one another, the two county library systems were able to test different venues by providing access to library services through self-contained systems that allow library customers access to materials through self-service lockers and computer terminals.