James Blackstone Memorial Library

About the Library:
The James Blackstone Memorial Library was a gift to the city of Branford, Connecticut by railroad executive Timothy B. Blackstone in memory of his father at a time when there were fewer than 1,000 public libraries in the United States. The impressive structure boasts a 50-foot white marble dome and architectural details that echo the Acropolis in Greece – Ionic columns, marble doorways with bronze doors, and ‘egg and dart’ molding. The interior is impressive as well, with pink and gray marble, painted murals, and medallion portraits of American literary figures like Emerson, Hawthorne and Longfellow. The library opened in 1896 with a stock of 5,000 books.

Today the Library is considered the crown jewel of Branford’s downtown. The collection has grown to nearly 85,000 items, including nearly 23,000 books for children. Over 700 community members come in each day to borrow books, do research, use technology resources, and participate in library programs, from job skills workshops to children’s reading programs. In addition, the library has an auditorium and large reading room. Those spaces, as well as the beautiful rotunda, can be reserved for everything from community meetings to wedding receptions, parties and corporate events.

The library strives to stay on top of current trends in order to offer the best service possible to their population – like Nook e-readers that can be checked out, computers for public use, an interactive website, and state-of-the-art multi-function copy machines.

Why BookScan Station?
As a public library, Blackstone strives to meet a wide range of needs, said Barbara Cangiano, Head of Reference Department. “We deal with people who have academic requirements and business and personal needs,” she said. “People who are buying a house have to send papers to their lender. People looking for work want copies of their resume or social security card to send electronically.” The result was a steady stream of people asking if the library had a scanner they could use.

Hearing how much nearby Wallingford Library liked the BookScan Station, Blackstone Library Director Kathy Rieger decided to install one for a 30-day trial. “I know the Director at Wallingford and have a lot of respect for her and their library, so it didn’t take a lot of convincing to try it out,” said Rieger.

Blackstone Library set up a single BookScan Station unit on a table near the reference desk and announced the trial with a note on their website, a sign next to the machine, and a short article in the local newspaper. People immediately started using the BookScan Station, which is free for scans saved to flash drive or to e-mail. The library chose not to enable the scan-to-print feature.

The Results
“The trial started mid-April and the staff was convinced in a matter of days that it was a very handy piece of equipment, especially when patrons were able to simply walk up and use it without needing assistance,” said Rieger. “I’m impressed that it has the ‘searchable PDF’ feature and the ‘PDF to Word’ feature. Also the touch screen is so easy to use.”

The public was as convinced as the staff.

“We got a quick response,” said Cangiano. “They see the sign or we say ‘try our new scanner,’ and people are literally coming in, using it, and walking out satisfied. I’d say 95 percent have used the scanners without asking for assistance. It is virtually self-serve and we’ve never had new technology here that was so self-sufficient.”

That ease of use has been a real time-saver for the library staff. “So much of what we do is labor-intensive,” said Cangiano. “People need help and that’s what we’re here for. But I love that the BookScan Station does not require the kind of hand-holding that the copy machines and printers require. I think it’s the touch screen. It’s so intuitive. It just asks you a couple questions and you push the selection and go.”

Unexpected Benefits
At first, the staff was simply pleased to have an easy, self-service way to allow patrons to scan their materials. But they quickly discovered other benefits that have them even more excited – like the Optical Character Recognition technology that allows materials to be scanned to searchable PDF and Word documents.

“We recently figured that out and just couldn’t believe it,” said Cangiano. “I think that’s really helpful to have for us, in-house. For instance, we have old papers from the history of the town, obituaries from newspapers that are now defunct, and tons and tons of things in scrapbooks that are deteriorating and are of very little use to anyone because they are not indexed. So we are experimenting with the BookScan Station to see how we can use it with our archives to get them scanned and take advantage of the searchable PDF feature to create indexes. It’s an ongoing project that will take a lot of time, but we’re working on figuring out the best way to use that feature.”

Another benefit, said Rieger, “is that the Book Scan also frees up our public computers as many patrons simply want to scan something to send somewhere or to use themselves and we used to have to put them on a computer for that.”

The Future:
Needless to say, the James Blackstone Memorial Library is keeping their BookScan Station. Librarians anticipate that it will get a lot of use in years to come as people discover how easy it is to do so much.

“It’s a really quick way to take care a lot of the details of your life,” said Cangiano. “People with insurance documents that would ordinarily need to be copied and faxed can just scan and e-mail them. So many job applications today are on-line, and a lot of people don’t have an electronic version of their resume. Now, instead of re-typing it into Word, they can scan it to USB, edit it or update their address, and e-mail it. The BookScan Station has filled a lot of gaps in people’s lives, and it does not seem to have any technical problems or malfunctions.”

While she does not see scanners entirely replacing copiers, Cangiano does anticipate that the copiers will see less use. “I think there are still people that want the paper trail and don’t trust electronic documents,” she said. “But all kinds of people could benefit from electronic versions and this way they can have it in both formats. The BookScan Station has certainly allowed people to do a lot by saving to flash drive or e-mail without having to replenish paper or supplies on the copiers.”

One thing that may encourage people to scan rather than print is the fact that scans are free, while the library just raised the cost for copies to 25 cents per page for black and white and 75 cents per page for color. But Cangiano believes it’s the simplicity of the BookScan Station that will make scans more popular than photocopies.

“Copiers have a lot of features and that’s great, but you waste a lot of paper,” she said. “We can waste 14 pieces of paper to get a double-sided copy right. But BookScan Station truly makes a lot of complicated things very easy. It’s sort of like a fax and a copier and a virtual printer, all in one.”

“The staff was convinced in a matter of days that (the BookScan Station) was a very handy piece of equipment, especially when patrons were able to simply walk up and use it without needing assistance. I’m impressed that it has the ‘searchable PDF’ feature and the ‘PDF to Word’ feature. Also the touch screen is so easy to use.”
Kathy Rieger
Library Director, James Blackstone Memorial Library
Branford, Connecticut

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