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Libraries Install New Program to Speed Up Exit Times

By Emma C. Cobb, Crimson Staff Writer

A new program entitled “Secure Exit” was installed in Widener and Lamont Libraries on Jan. 13 to help speed up exit times and improve security. The program utilizes a barcode scanner that security guards can use to check whether books are cleared to leave the library.

Secure Exit was developed by Harvard’s Library Technology Services from a basic plan created by Joshua Parker, head of access services for humanities and social sciences. The program was made to replace what librarians call the “stamp and slip” method, by which due dates are stamped on slips of paper inside the books.

“The program was created in direct response to issues that have been raised about long lines at those two libraries at peak times,” said Kira Poplowski, director of communications for the Harvard Library.

Katie McGrath, director of administration for the Harvard College Library, said that library exit times shortened slightly in the first few weeks of the program’s implementation. She added that the hope is for the new system to continue to expedite the process as people become more accustomed to it.

Secure Exit is part of a greater effort to reduce wait times at library exits, where security guards continue to manually check bags. Recently, libraries have also added a second lane during peak hours.

Besides shortening exit times, another primary goal of the new program is to ensure the security of the collections.

“It is much harder to ensure the security of the collections with the stamp and slip,” McGrath said. “With bar scans it is much easier because it is querying a system that is keeping track of whether or not a book can circulate.”

McGrath and Parker worked together to ensure the proper rollout of the Secure Exit program by installing the necessary technology, training staff, and informing students and faculty of the change.

There is no set date to rollout the new program to the Fine Arts Library, Cabot Library, and Countway Library—the three other libraries where security guards check bags at exits—but McGrath said she hopes that the program will be implemented at these libraries later in the spring.

“I have been very pleased with it,” Parker said. “From what I’ve seen of it from speaking with library patrons and security guards, there have been positive comments.”

—Staff writer Emma C. Cobb can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @emmaccobb.

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