Building the Library of the Future at Wake Forest University
With a mission to inspire learning, advance knowledge, and build community, the Z. Smith Reynolds Library (or ZSR for short), provides services to over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Wake Forest University, a private research university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Creating an efficient, contactless way to connect people with materials
When COVID-19 hit the United States and schools and libraries all over the country shut down — including ZSR — the library’s Associate Dean, Mary Beth Lock, started to wonder: “How can we continue to meet the needs of our students and faculty?”
The library’s shutdown meant students and faculty couldn’t access the building — or its materials — in the usual way. “We knew we could utilize our foyer, which is open 24 hours, for pick-ups,” Lock says. “We started pushing more online services, including focusing on making the materials in our collections available for online request.” To keep providing for the students and faculty during the library’s shutdown the staff set up a make-shift exchange area in the foyer where materials were placed in paper bags for pick-up. This was based on the honor system to trust that people would only take items that were labeled for them, however, when valuable equipment like computers needed to be returned from repair, the paper bag solution was really not feasible.
Many months prior — in conversations about the long-term future of the library — smart lockers were brought up in a conversation. They were largely considered a “pipe dream” investment. Then, the world changed and in the midst of budget cuts and online requests continuing to grow, smart lockers were posed again as a solution. This time, there were no objections — the laminate, smart lockers would provide secure access, and most importantly — help the library carry out its mission of being of service in the way that made the most sense for students, faculty, and staff.
Smart lockers provide a secure exchange of goods and a conversation piece for the library
The adoption of lockers by the library patrons was seamless. The laminate smart lockers were designed to maximize the number of openings by understanding the typical size was of materials borrowed. Smaller openings were designed on top and a large opening at the bottom for any bulk rentals. When a student or faculty member is notified that their materials are ready for pick up, they simply use their existing campus ID cards as their key to open the locker. It’s a seamless user experience.
The system made so much sense that shortly after the locker bank was installed, because the locker system is smart, ZSR had access to the usage data of the lockers. They quickly realized the lockers were hovering around 90% capacity the majority of the time.
This gave the library all the justification they needed to order additional columns to add to the locker bank and provide more available openings to deposit rentals. This also allowed for the tech support team to be able to have locker openings allocated to safely deposit repaired computers and provide A/V equipment rentals.
The modular nature of the laminate locker columns made for an easy installation and addition of the new locker columns. Rather than doing standard sizes, the library designed locker openings that allowed for different sized and shaped equipment rentals, such as, tripods. Even with the additional locker columns, the lockers were so popular the library had to reduce the usual 10-day hold to five days due to the lockers always being near capacity from demand.