Noortje Palmers

Antwerp library to go unstaffed

From 2 March the library in the Antwerp district of Wilrijk will open without staff for several hours each week. Registered users will be able to return and lend books and other material by using self-scanning terminals and payment facilities. The idea for unstaffed libraries comes from The Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. Here in Flanders libraries in Bree (Limburg) and Middelkerke (West Flanders) have already gone (partially) unstaffed.    

Over the past few years the City of Antwerp has installed self-scanning facilities and payment terminals in its libraries. This enables library users to return material and lend material without having to seek the assistance of a librarian.

However, in order to use the facility the library has to be open and staffed. From the start of next month this will change. The Bist Library in Wilrijk will be open 13 hours a week longer than is currently the case but without any staff. The idea is that by extending the library’s opening hours, at very little extra cost to the tax-payer, a more flexible service can be offered to existing library members and that new members can be persuaded to join the library.   

Users will be able to get into the library by using their “A-Kaart”, a plastic card issued by the city authorities. Those that wish to use the new service must first register. They can do so at the library while it is staffed. CCTV cameras will keep a watchful eye while the library is open unstaffed. If after a year the pilot project in Wilrijk is judged to have been a success it twill be extended to other libraries elsewhere in the city.