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Odegaard’s $22,000 self-checkout machine all about convenience

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Sophomore Emma Martinelli uses the self-checkout for the first time. Martinelli had trouble scanning one of her books and had to take it to the front desk. After the experience, Martinelli said she would likely not use it again.

Take a right turn the next time that you walk into Odegaard Undergraduate Library.

Next to the reserves and English as a Second Language (ESL) collections sits a brand-new self-checkout station, like what you might find at many grocery store chains.

Installed in December, the self-checkout machine was funded by the Student Technology Fee (STF), which is included in the tuition of UW students.

“This library really is for students, and I think the STF committee recognized that,” said Ryan McCrory, Access Services manager at Odegaard. “Whenever they fund a project in Odegaard, they see that it gets used.”

The purpose of the self-checkout station is simple; students in a rush are able to check items out themselves in a hurry. Library patrons scan their Husky Cards and books with the machine, which then gives them a printed receipt with the due date.

However, compared to the roughly 188,361 people who used the library last February, not many students seem to take advantage of the $22,000 machine.

“We’re seeing right around 12 to 15 patrons a day, on average, use it,” McCrory said.

According to the STF proposal, an Odegaard survey showed that 77 percent of respondents would use a self-checkout machine. Benefits include privacy during checkout and that the machine supports foreign languages.

Chinese and Korean are the only languages, besides English, installed on the machine right now, but library technician Bryce Figueroa said more languages may be installed in the future.

“It’s a nice way for ESL students to be self-sufficient, because a lot are very reluctant to interact with staff because they do have issues with [English],” McCrory said. “We’re hoping they’ll make the progression to getting help at the desk and conversing with the staff.”

When the STF proposal was first made last year, the price of the machine was around $25,000. Between then and the time it was purchased, the price of the technology dropped. The remaining money went back to the STF fund to be used for other proposals. The UW Libraries pay for the wiring ($5,000) and annual maintenance ($3,400) of the machine.

Odegaard’s self-checkout machine is actually the second on campus. An older, different model is in the Health Sciences Library. Locally, machines have recently been installed in the Seattle Public and King County libraries.

“Another benefit of waiting a few years is that the technology has just gotten so much better,” McCrory said. “So we’re really pleased with the fact that it took us a few years to get it. I do think the self-sufficiency aspect has been the key of it. The fact is that it’s the undergraduate library, and 91 percent of our business is undergraduates.”

With the new self-checkout station, that includes undergraduates in a hurry.

Reach contributing writer Bryden McGrath at development@dailyuw.com.

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