Coalville Library To Experiment With Extended Non-Staffed Hours
The Summit County Council on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for their Library Director to pursue an experiment that would expand hours at their Coalville branch and allow patrons to access the building without staff on hand. The concept is called “Open Plus.”
County Library Director Dan Compton said their first preference would be to acquire more staff. But if not that, they’d like to try the Open Plus option at Coalville.
He said the concept, which has been adopted in other countries and elsewhere in the U.S., doesn’t mean just anyone can come into the library unattended, or you would have people sleeping there after hours. He said patrons will have to apply and go through an orientation.
“From what I’ve heard with other libraries, you come in, get the orientation, sign the agreement, and then we would change the patron type of your library card to be one that could access the building through Open Plus,” Compton explained. “So we would change your card. And that way, not just anyone can use their card and go. You have to opt in to do this. If you found a card on the ground, you couldn’t just swipe it and get in, plus you’d have to know their PIN number too.”
He said hours now at the Coalville branch are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Monday through Friday and 10 to 2 on Saturday. He discussed the new hours he’s proposing, with surveillance and contact from Kimball Junction.
“Since that building opens at 8 a.m. for the Health Department, there’s activity there,” Compton continued. “I would say we open at 8 a.m. and we leave it open until 8 p.m., when the Kimball Junction branch is open until 8 p.m., which is Monday through Thursday. And Kimball Junction is also open on Saturday from 10 to 6, so that would give 4 more hours on Saturdays. Would actually increase by 22 hours a week if we did that for Coalville. And we would pretty much have eyes on the cameras during those times at another location and have somebody available via phone to answer questions if someone did need assistance.”
Compton said that during the extended hours, the doors will lock after patrons leave the building. And a recorded announcement will notify them of closing time.
He added that sheriff deputies could also check the library periodically during the extended hours.
He said among other locations, they heard from the Ventura County, California library system, where Open Plus has been working well.
“And they only do it in the morning hours from 8 to 10, basically 6 days a week,” Compton said. “But they said they have patrons that absolutely love it. They’re there every day. That’s when they can come to the library so it’s convenient for them. Their director made an interesting point. We’re all worried about the security issue, but she said okay. So one day she showed up and parked in her car and just kind of spied, and they had set the rules that you’re not to allow piggybacking, or you cannot unlock the door and just let people come in after you. She said right at 8 a.m. there were 3 people that came. And they lined up, and the first person went in and then shut the door behind them, and the next person did the same thing and then the third. She said, “When I saw that, I realized this is going to work.” They’ve met with these people, done the orientation. They want to follow the rules because they want the service. They’re going to try and protect that.”
Compton said they conducted a survey and received over 240 local responses. A strong majority in each area wanted more library hours. There were more patrons favoring later hours than earlier. And for the Richins Library at Kimball Junction, 85 percent of the respondents wanted the library open on Sunday.
Compton said they will apply for a federal grant, administered through the state, that could run the program in Coalville for three years. The funding would come to about $12,000 a year—which is less than the cost of a part-time staffer working 20 hours a week.