Washington County may need to add additional lockers in Marine on St. Croix and Newport if the number of people using the new Library Express continues to rise.
The service, which allows library card holders to use a computer to order materials and have them delivered to lockers outside City Hall, replaced brick-and-mortar libraries in the two communities this month.
Library staff delivers materials to the lockers twice a week. In Marine, so many patrons have requested items that the city's 20 lockers have been filled to capacity once, and they have been at least 60 percent full on three other occasions since the service began on Jan. 5.
"Folks in the Marine area have been active requesters," said Amy Worwa, north regional manager for the Washington County Library system. "They like to use the county library system. They are happy to have 24-7 access. It's had a good reception."
Newport residents haven't been quite as active. Only half of the city's 10 lockers have been used, but library staff has delivered an average of 12 items per drop off and expect an uptick once word spreads about Library Express.
"I've been getting phone calls pretty regularly from people who are inquiring about it," said Carol Warner, the library system's south group manager who is based at the Park Grove Library in neighboring Cottage Grove. Will business pick up? "I expect so," she said.
Washington County closed its branches in the two communities on Dec. 30 as part a budget-balancing plan. Both cities took over operations of their respective libraries, but signed an agreement that allows them to receive some services such as Library Express from the county.
The county also closed a branch in Lake Elmo. That city passed on the idea of having Library Express, voting instead to leave the county system and run its own library.
Library Express debuted in Washington County two years ago in Hugo. Demand there was so strong that within a few months officials had to bring in a second bank of lockers. There are now 40 lockers at Hugo City Hall.
The county spent $30,490 to buy the Library Express systems and the lockers for Marine and Newport, and $11,400 to install them, library officials said.
Based on the results of Library Express in Hugo, Worwa said the county bought extra lockers -- they come in banks of 10 -- with its last order in anticipation that they will be needed in Marine or Newport.
"We have two extra sets, so we can easily slide another 10 in there," she said. "If we don't need the lockers at the Library Express, we could expand at a current branch and use that as a pickup point."
Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039, Twitter: @timstrib