SAC Library moves into the future with new technology

August 30, 2023

Office of Marketing & Strategic Communications

Pioneering new technologies are enhancing the campus experience at the San Antonio College Library.  

New services for self-checkout are ready. The SAC Library TO-GO mobile app for Android and iPhone users can be loaded on smart phones now. And a 24-hour kiosk outside the library with access to books are some of the developments expected to be operational for the fall semester. The upgrades will improve student success. The technologies are being used to give more equitable access to library resources, streamline the experience and increase user-friendliness. 

The advancements also put SAC on the leading edge of library technology in higher education.

“We want to become the future of academic libraries,” said Lee LeBlanc, SAC Director of Library Services.

New self-checkout options make it easier for students to get the resources they need quickly and efficiently. Library staff recently completed the months-long process of adding RFID tags to each book in the library’s collection.

The tags allow users to check out five books at one time using the self-serve stations on each floor. A 23” touchscreen guides users through the checkout process. Along with the self-checks is another live service running off of iPads: a help button which initiates a live call to a team member anywhere in the library. If a patron needs assistance or just has a question about the library in general, the librarians can instantly respond.

Self-checkout and instant live communication is a rarity in academic libraries, said Library Supervisor and Research Services Librarian Karen Briere.

The advancements are similar to self-checkout in a retail environment, LeBlanc said.

“That’s the experience we are in some ways trying to create,” said Lee LeBlanc. “We’re looking to be as seamless as possible.”

SAC Library App allows mobile checkout
Library users can also locate items, check out books and manage their accounts using their smartphones through the new SAC Library TO-GO App, available on Android and iPhone. The app will help library users locate books, then scan those books from the palm of their hand. Once scanned through the app, the RFID tag is deactivated, and the student can leave with their books without setting off monitoring detectors at the door.

The app also features an account status screen so library users can view their accounts and renew and reserve items on their phones.

24-hour Anytime Library kiosk
SAC students and faculty will soon be able to access books 24-hours a day through a new self-serve kiosk in a covered, fully-accessible shelter in front of the Moody Learning Center. The Anytime Library holds 336 books and will include a selection of textbooks, new books and items that the campus community reserves.

Anytime Library carousel.jpgBooks are displayed spine-out through glass display windows. Users check out books much like self-checking at a department or grocery store. The kiosk also accepts returned items.

It’s one of, if not the first-ever, 24-hour kiosk of browsable books seamlessly connected to the internal library technologies available at an academic library in Texas, Briere said.

Another new addition inside the library is a call button to request help. Each floor will include a service station that allows two-way communication to connect patrons with library staff.

“I wanted our staff to be untethered from the traditional service desk model,” LeBlanc said. “I wanted our team to be able to get up and walk with people, have conversations with them, have a transformative moment as they travel with them. It creates more opportunity to interact with the person and find ways to help.”

Funding for the improvements came from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund from the Department of Education, a federal grant created in response to academic needs resulting from the pandemic.

The SAC College Executive Team also provided funding to invest in new technology for the library.

Lessons learned from COVID-19 pandemic closures have shaped how the library will operate going forward, LeBlanc said.

“There is no return to normal. We had to move into the future and find new ways to operate,” LeBlanc said.

The library will soon offer a system to monitor the number of people on each floor. With this feature, someone can see the occupancy of each floor live on the library website and decide how and when they want to visit.

“We asked ourselves how we can do things better so we never have to close again,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to provide access to library resources available anytime, anywhere, anyway.”   

The new technology is part of an upgrade to the library that includes new furnishings and improved working and learning spaces. 

The SAC Library contains more than 150,000 books on three floors within the Moody Learning Center and also includes computer workstations, private study pods, group spaces large enough, the Student-Parent KidSpot family-friendly study space, and the Academic Services Writing Center. The vision of the SAC Library is to become the future of academic libraries - and never stop.