FAIRMONT — Marion County Public Library System Director Erika Reed sounds like she’s telling a riddle as she describes the library system’s new kind of library that’s coming this fall.
“It’s halfway in between a bookmobile and a physical library location,” she said.
She was describing the “Express Library,” which is coming to White Hall later this year.
“It’s not quite mobile, but it’s an outreach service,” she said. “It’s sort of a mini-library and a mobile hot spot.”
Reed described the “Express Library” as a “Red Box on steroids,” referring to the ubiquitous DVD rental boxes that can be seen in such places as Walmart.
To be located outside under a large canopy on the corner of the new White Hall Public Safety Building property, the Express Library will allow people to go to the library without ever leaving the Town.
Reed explained how it will work.
“You can walk right up to it, and like a Red Box machine, you take a look at the items that are there and if anything piques your interest, then you can scan your library card in, kind of poke the number of the slot that you want, and the book will vend out to you,” she said.
She said the new library will also increase convenience for readers who frequently use the library’s book hold system.
“You also can pick up your holds there. So, if someone goes online and they place holds for certain titles, they actually can specify to pick it up there and we’ll slide it in there so that when they come and scan their card, it immediately knows that they’ve got books waiting and will vend it out to them. They can actually return books here as well,” Reed said.
In addition to books, the Express Library will have DVDs, graphic novels/comic books, CDs and video games.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Guy Ward, Mayor of White Hall. “It’s going to be a big help to people who don’t have time to drive in to Fairmont to go to the library.”
He said White Hall will pay for the internet and electric service for the Express Library. Reed discussed the quantity of items that will be available.
“It will hold several hundred items, and will have a giant window so you will be able to look in and see what titles are there,” she said.
Reed said she had seen the “Express Library” concept at a conference five years ago and then shared it with the library system board, who she said loved the idea. She thought the Express Library would be easier for patrons who might not want to go to the main library in Fairmont.
She noted the Express Library will operate 24/7, saying, for example, it could serve people coming home from night shift or those who can’t sleep and want to grab a good book.
Reed said she thinks ground may be broken for the Express Library sometime in June with it being installed in mid- to late-August. Specifically, she said it will be located on a strip of land between the public safety building and the nearby movie theater.
According to Reed, the Marion County Public Library System will be the first in West Virginia to have an Express Library. It’s been five years in the making.
“This has been a long project,” she said. “We’ve invested a lot of, I think, heart and staff time into this.”
She said the community — including business leaders — was polled about the project. According to Reed, the business leaders were excited about it.
“I think they wanted to be part of something that would help improve their community,” she said.
The up-front cost of the Express Library was $140,000, which is funded by the Library Levy. While the library system tries to be “very responsible” with its money from the organization, Reed said it’s important to understand that the library system saved up for the Express Library over a five-year span.
From a practical standpoint, she said, the alternative of putting in an entire branch library would be very costly.
“This is the best financial option that we have,” Reed said.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (304) 367-2549.