Andover and Ramsey residents will not have to drive outside their borders to get a book from the library. E-books can be downloaded from specialty stations. Students in the Andover YMCA’s programs can access the Internet for homework research.
All this is possible thanks to a federal grant the Anoka County Library received late last year. Since then, library staff and a committee have been finding vendors from which to buy equipment and working out technical glitches so more Anoka County residents will have easier access to free library materials.
“This will be nice because it’s close to home,” said Ramsey resident Amanda Shaw as she and her children Tyler, 6, and Keira, 5, looked at the new equipment in the Ramsey Municipal Center, which is right next to a Northstar Rail station.
Anoka County Library Director Marlene Moulton Janssen anticipates many commuters checking out a paperback, hardcover or e-books to read on the train.
Jessica Krueger, youth development director at the Andover YMCA, is utilizing 20 Google Nexus tablets purchased with this grant for multiple YMCA summer programs and these devices will come in handy for after school programs.
The students were limited on how much homework they could do at the YMCA’s after school program because there were no laptops or tablets provided. Some kids did not have the Internet at home.
Krueger brought her personal laptop to help out, but now there are plenty of computers to research homework assignments or play games during break times.
The YMCA worked with Oak View Middle School to borrow textbooks, Krueger said, but it needed to go all the way to the Ham Lake Library to get other reading material that now can be received down the hall. Every kid in a YMCA program will receive a library card.
“It’s going to benefit our programs greatly,” Krueger said.
Laniesha Bisek, entering seventh grade at Oak View Middle School, and Kathryn Harrold, going into sixth grade at Coon Rapids Middle School, like being able to play games and look things up on the Internet.
“It’s more fun because we’re not just sitting in a room reading a book,” said Andrew Marquez, who is entering seventh grade at Oak View Middle School.
The Andover YMCA and Ramsey Municipal Center are two of four locations in the county that received new equipment thanks to the $117,389 grant that originated from the federal Institute of Museum and Library services agency. University Avenue Elementary School in Blaine and the Mississippi Branch Library in Fridley are the other two sites.
This pilot project is being called “Anoka County Library on the Go” because it literally allows users to avoid the traditional brick and mortar libraries by visiting satellite locations, grabbing or downloading a book and going home or to work.
All four locations have 3M Discovery Stations, which allows people to download e-books onto their tablet, e-reader, smart phone or computer. You first have to download 3M’s Cloud Library app.
The only device that is not compatible is the Kindle because Amazon and 3M could not reach an agreement, Janssen said.
But Kindle owners and all others can download electronic books through the OverDrive program available on the library’s website, she said.
These 3M terminals can also access to over 125 magazines through the county’s Zinio program, according to Janssen.
Patricia Nelson of Ramsey got a Google Nexus 7 tablet a year ago and talked her friend Pam Stoeckel of Oak Grove into buying the same device three months ago.
What Stoeckel likes is the downloaded e-books are automatically returned once the lease period runs out, so she does not have to worry about late fees.
“I love it. This is really nice,” she said.
People at the Rum River Library in Anoka and the Northtown Library in Blaine also have a 3M Discovery Station, but Janssen said the library purchased these two machines on its own and not with the federal grant.
Andover and Ramsey got book lockers, vending machine and indoor and outdoor drop boxes. Delivery will be handled on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays by a part-time employee and overseen by Rum River Library Branch Manager Kim Johnson.
Book orders can be placed through the library’s website (www.anoka.lib.mn.us). You must provide a library card identification number and an email address, so you can be notified when the books have been delivered and what the code is to open the locker. If you have a large enough order, more than one locker can be used.
The vending machines will periodically get popular books and movies. The best part is you do not have to wait a day or two for your books to be delivered and you do not have to put a hold on it.
“It’s like a lucky day machine,” Janssen said.
The Ramsey Municipal Center has the first library book vending machine in the state of Minnesota, while the Andover YMCA is the first non-library location in the state to get a 3M Discovery Station, according to Janssen.
University Avenue Elementary School in Blaine is getting 36 3M e-readers and one laptop along with $8,000 worth of e-books. The Andover YMCA also got $5,000 worth of e-books.
The Fridley Library and Ramsey Municipal Center will get tablet dispenser machines at some point, but product development by the Tech Logic Media Surfer company was not as far along as the county anticipated, so it re-opened the bidding process and a second company from Texas is throwing its hat into the ring.
As with any new program, there will be issues to work out. Krueger said the Andover YMCA’s bandwidth is getting overloaded when all students are on their computers at once, so she would like the facility to get more bandwidth capability.
When Shaw was getting the hardcover book “Inferno,” by Dan Brown, it got stuck in the vending machine. Lucky for her, this happened during an open house at the Ramsey Municipal Center so Ben Trapskin, assistant director of the Anoka County Library, was able to knock it loose and reach up to grab it.
One reality that will be hard to change is Ramsey residents and Northstar commuters will have a smaller window of time to get their reading material than those going to the Andover YMCA.
The Ramsey Municipal Center opens at 7 a.m. each day. It closes at 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays and at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, but stays unlocked longer if there is an evening meeting, according to Ramsey City Administrator Kurt Ulrich. The council meets 7 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, for example.
The YMCA hosts multiple sporting events in the evening and weekends. Its regular weekday hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is open 6-9 p.m. on weekends.
Janssen admitted that the limited hours at Ramsey, especially no weekend access, did concern the committee that worked on this Library on the Go program.
The electronic equipment needs a climate controlled environment and the parking garage and stairwells by the skyway to the rail station do not provide this. The lockers could have withstood the elements, but it wanted all equipment in the same place. Vandalism was also a concern.
“We consider this a pilot where patron input is sought and informs future services,” Janssen said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org