Edinburgh libraries to operate without staff in pilot study

The way libraries operate could be changing with self-service kiosks being trialled
The way libraries operate could be changing with self-service kiosks being trialled
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Libraries are to operate without staff on the premises from next year in a £350,000 pilot study.

Library users in Edinburgh would swipe a card to enter the building and use existing self-service kiosks to check books in and out.

Council chiefs say CCTV cameras, emergency telephones, loudspeakers and alarms will ensure security when libraries are unstaffed.

Four libraries will be selected to take part in the pilot from May next year. Two community centres will also be included in the study, with swipe-card access allowing groups to use the facilities and let themselves in and out.

Edinburgh would be the first council in Scotland to adopt the “Open Libraries” model although they have been introduced elsewhere in the UK and in Ireland after being pioneered in Scandinavia.

The council says the initiative will mean libraries can extend their opening times, complementing normal staffed hours. The authority insists there will be no impact on permanent posts.

As well as being able to check books in and out, users visiting libraries during unstaffed hours would also be able to use computers, wi-fi, reading space, magazines and newspapers.

The council says experience elsewhere is there has been that there are very few anti-social incidents involving Open Libraries and people take greater responsibility and ownership of their local library or community centre.

Green culture spokesman Alex Staniforth said Open Libraries were worth looking at.

“A pilot project with plenty of lead-in time and proper assessment of the impact is a reasonable step to take,” he said.

“Open Libraries must be about extending the library offer not about replacing core staffed hours. The idea needs to be something that library users and staff buy into. And the systems which are in use – particularly controlled access cards, CCTV and lighting, all of which make security and safety work – need to be fully in place before a pilot goes ahead.

“It is too early to say if Open Libraries are the way of the future, but the evidence from other countries is they have increased library use and made libraries and community centres more valued in their neighbourhoods.”

Education convener Ian Perry said: “Open Library has proven to be highly successful in libraries across the world, including the UK, in enabling a wider range of people to access services, opening up library spaces as free and welcoming hubs for communities. This would complement our existing, staffed service to offer longer opening hours and greater access to facilities.”