The Disadvantages of Library Automation

Written by cheryl starr
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The Disadvantages of Library Automation
The Boston Public Library was the first large free library in the United States, according to BPL.org. (Boston public library exterior image by nextrecord from Fotolia.com)

Gone are the days when libraries used date stampers to check in and check out books. Paper library cards have been replaced by sleek plastic swipe-able library cards that are coined the "smartest" cards in today's wallets by NPR.org. Library technology provides the best resources for the general public, according to LibraryTechnology.org. Public libraries are valuable to towns and cities as they grow with technology. Many libraries have added automation systems, computers and more to their locations. However valuable their technological advances may be, there are some disadvantages of library automation.

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Employee Cut-Backs

With the new automation systems in public libraries, there is less funding left in the budget for employees. Also, fewer employees are needed. The automation system does the work of human employees by scanning books and more. You can check books out by yourself by simply swiping your library card and then scan your book across the book pad. "Users can be taught to handle terminals and systems, but it is harder and harder to find people, especially out on the floor of public libraries, of whom you can ask your perhaps not-fully-formed question or make a general inquiry," states Ann Eastman at Ideals.Illinois.Edu.

Libary Closings & Hour Shortages

Many libraries are closing their doors because of economic pressures. Library doors are either closing permanently or they are closing earlier or opening later. Partly due to the new automation system, funding can no longer be afforded to keep them all up and running. Library closings mean less library access for all patrons. Library closings mean job closings, less children's story hours, book club closings and cancelled after-school reading clubs to help keep kids off of the streets. LibraryTechnology.org states, "it seems that each week brings news of libraries forced to close branches, reduce hours." Libraries without automation are simply less expensive to run. Goverment grants cannot cover all of the branches with rising technology costs and smaller libraries cannot always afford to pay for the automation costs on their own.

Book Budgets

A higher budget percentage being spent on automated library systems means less money is being spent on books. With bookshelves shrinking, it is less likely to find what you need during your next visit to the library. Library books have a shelf life and sometimes are only kept according to the number of times they are checked out. Ideals.Illinois.Edu.com, states,"If academic libraries continue to cut back on their purchase of specialised scholarly books, if they begin to define worth or value in terms of the number of times someone has sought access to it...one could imagine a day when every university would have its own "press." John William Ward, president of the American Council of Learned Societies said, according to Ideals.Illinois.Edu.com, "The new technology is radically changing the environment in which scholars do their work. The great danger is we will end with a system of scholarly communication which will be technically viable, but not intellectually desirable."

Rising Building and Maintenance Costs

When automated systems are added into a library, FindArticles.com states that added power consumption and the changes in heating and air conditioning needs are seldom planned for when automated systems are installed. The noise and heat of the machines combined with the noise and heat of body heat from extra people, cost more than what the library had been previously paying for the building's maintenance and power costs.

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