SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — For many people, there’s nothing like a good book to pass the time when you’re stuck at home…just ask Brianna Sedy.
"Digitally, I check out a lot of books, like every week, for sure. I get new books. I’m a big reader," she said.
Sedy and thousands of other residents in Santa Clarita can now pick up books on their own schedule using a new locker system.
"It feels very modern and easy to use, which I think is a really good feature," Sedy said.
Located outside the Valencia Library branch, the 69 locker compartments also feature a touch-screen kiosk. Users start by placing a hold online at home and are notified when their items are ready, usually within 24 hours.
"You can come to the locker system 24/7, scan your card, enter your pin number. The locker will pop open, and you can get your materials," City Librarian Shannon Vonnegut said.
She said the lockers are wiped down daily and also sanitized each time new books are placed inside. The concept is similar to Amazon lockers and was discussed even before the COVID closures.
"It’s an idea we’ve been toying with for a little while. It was more of our long-range plan," Vonnegut said.
But when COVID hit, she says the library decided to test it out sooner to meet the need for less interaction. The plan is for the lockers to gradually replace curbside pickup and allow users to get their materials anytime. Users can still call the library to place books on hold, if they don't have internet access.
Once items are returned, they sit in a quarantine room for three days to ensure the virus doesn’t survive on the materials. Vonnegut says during the pandemic, the library has seen an unprecedented demand for digital and physical materials.
"People really want their movies, their e-books, their audiobooks. People are looking for that content and something to distract themselves from what’s going on in the world," Vonnegut said.
Santa Clarita is the first library system in Southern California to install the lockers and she said a new wave of young readers are actually shying away from e-books.
"Anyone in their 20s, they’re really going towards books. They don’t want the digital. They want the physical book, so that’s kind of one of the trends right now," Vonnegut said.
As for whether the high-tech lockers will draw younger generations to the library, Sedy said, "I have siblings. They like to push buttons, open doors. I think they’ll find it fun."
And for the library, it provides a new level of access to residents around the clock.