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COMPUTER LETS PATRONS CHECK OUT OWN BOOKS

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"Do it yourself" now applies to the library checkout - at least for patrons of the Orem Public Library, where a new self-checkout system is in place.

On loan from 3M and running on Dynix software, the $25,000 scanner is currently up and available for test runs through June.After that time, the library will have to decide whether to invest in the unit or return to librarian-assisted checking.

Dennis Clark, working with the unit at the library, said he thinks the self-check concept would free up librarians to do what they do best - introduce the collection to patrons.

"So many hours are spent at the counter top moving books," said Clark, "when what a librarian is trained to do is help with research and with questions."

The SelfCheck provides a monitor with messages and easy-to-follow instructions and a cradle for books being checked out. A photo-electric cell reader scans the bar code on the library card and the books.

It then determines whether the card is valid and whether the books are ready for release.

A "clunky" sound tells the patron the books are now desensitized and OK to take from the library.

"It's easy," said Dan Liechty, a 16-year-old Provo High School student who stopped by to try it out. "I would use it. It's easier than typing something in or waiting for help."

Clark said he expects the response to range from mild to intense interest. He expects young people to adapt more quickly than older people who aren't as familiar with computers.

The system is designed to be user-friendly, he said, and almost error-free.

A patron simply lays his card, bar code up, over the cell and waits for a command to push his book across the cradle bed.

After a short wait, the book can be removed and another put in its place.

When all books are scanned, a receipt - listing the book title, the due date and the bar code number - is printed out.

Orem is one of the first in the state to have a SelfCheck unit and may soon have three. Clark said two more vendors want the library to test their products.