City libraries expand use of cash card technology

Auckland City Libraries has expanded its pilot of a New Zealand cash card solution - in conjunction with network computers - to the entire library and will be rolling it out to its community libraries later in the year.

Auckland City Libraries has expanded its pilot of a New Zealand cash card solution - in conjunction with network computers - to the entire library and will be rolling it out to its community libraries later in the year.

The system, known as the library cash card, comes from New Zealand firm Copy Monitoring Systems.

Auckland library members can use the cash cards at the central city library to pay for a variety of technologies - photocopiers, Internet time and printing from Index New Zealand and other CD-ROM products.

Auckland Libraries business development manager Linda Edwards says overall cash handling time by staff has been reduced, allowing staff to spend more time on providing professional services. The aim of the system is to reduce the time library staff spend on what is perceived as the non-core business.

"It's an overall efficiency gain for the staff and a service improvement for customers, because they don't have to carry around pockets full of coins."

The cash card software operates on both PCs (on Winfows NT) and network computers (NCs).

Edwards says NCs are ideal for such a system, although the library had already opted to go with NCs for administrative and management reasons before selecting the cash card system.

Members can access a variety of databases from multi-use workstations, using the card to pay for any of the charged services.

Edwards says in the past library members had to go to different workstations for various purposes (such as viewing CDs or library catalogues). The cash cards are rechargeable with a lifetime of 3000 recharges.

Copy Monitoring Systems director Jim Milne says the system is "a bit of a hybrid", with the hardware coming from France and the software that controls printing coming from Canada. The remainder of the software - that provides communication between the hardware and the library system - was developed by Milne in New Zealand.

"It filters out paid and free Web sites, access to CD-ROM databases and all those sorts of things."

At present the card is separate to members' library cards, but Edwards says the library hopes to move toward a combined membership and cash card. Another feature planned is allowing people to pay fines with their cash card.

The same system is now installed at other libraries in the country, including Canterbury Public Library and North Shore Libraries.

Waitakere City Libraries plans to install the system soon.

Although there has been foreign interest in the system, Milne says overseas libraries' spending is going on Y2K compliance this year.

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