Apr 20 2011 By James Cracknell
First user, Geoffrey Porter tries out the new machines.
HARROW'S first self-service library machines have begun use in Pinner, a move that will help keep all 11 branches open – unlike in Brent where six will close.
The machines mark the beginning of a modernisation project that Harrow Council hope will improve customer service by freeing up staff from admin duties, as well as save £1.1million a year. But two jobs will be lost in Pinner and 34 overall across the borough.
Geoffrey Porter was the first resident to use the self-service machines. He said: "I was guided through it this time, but it seemed fairly intuitive to me. It seems to prompt you at each step. I look forward to using it again in the future and having a proper look at how it all works."
Additional staff are on site and will remain in place for the next few weeks to show visitors how easy it is to use the new machines.
The machines are similar to self service checkouts in supermarkets which allow customers to take out, return and renew books, CDs and DVDs. Customers can also pay loan and overdue charges, without having to wait for a member of staff to become available.
Harrow's modernisation project is in sharp contrast to neighbouring Brent's own 'libraries transformation', which includes the closure of six branches.
Councillor Rekha Shah (Wealdstone, Labour) portfolio holder for community and cultural services, said: "We are passionate about libraries in this borough and Harrow Council supports the community's will to keep all our branches open. Government cuts put pressure on all our services, but by introducing this new system we can continue to provide a great library service."
Meanwhile in Brent, the council has moved to play down the result of a public consultation where 82 per cent of respondents were against closing six local libraries.
A statement on its website was put up soon after the Labour executive voted through the plans. It said: "During consultation on these proposals, 1,134 people responded saying they were opposed. Of these, 98 per cent were library users - many using the threatened libraries.
"If we add in all the signatories of all the petitions and ignore double counting, it means a little over 11,000 were opposed, which is about four per cent of people in Brent."
Shahrar Ali, from Brent Green Party, said: "That is an absolute nonsense. Anyone in Brent will tell you that the consultation reply is directly proportional to the mood in the borough – we don't want these libraries closed."