Readers of LSN will be aware that some libraries are installing personal computers for public use.
We recently received an inquiry about the feasibility of attaching a coin box to such a computer to permit a library to discourage long-term use by children and to recover a portion of the cost of the service. The most economical and functional unit we have found is the Mark Tine, a product that has been used by dozens of libraries to meter coin- operated electric typewriters.
The Mark Time is "field adjustable"-- a library can easily change the amount of tine a patron gets for a quarter. This permits rates to be adjusted so that usage and revenue can be controlled as desired. The half-hour unit can be adjusted in 5-minute step-downs to 5 minutes and the hour unit can be adjusted in 10 minute step-downs to 10 minutes. Each Mark Tine unit costs $81.25. They can only be purchased through a distributor. The manufacturer--M. H. Rhodes Co., 99 Thompson Road, Avon, CT 06001; (203) 673-3281-will provide the names of distributors upon request.
Two other systems-Compuvend and XCP-offer more features than the Mark Time, including changemaking, an override key for staff, and accounting control. Both also cost up to ten times as much-up to $750. The Editors believe that a library should have compelling reasons to spend the extra money for these features.
If changemaking is important, it may be better to purchase a separate change maker so that patrons can obtain change for other equipment as well.
We do like the XCP VendaCard (TM) usage control unit even at a price of $1,895. The unit dispenses time on a micro or copies from a copying machine up to the limit coded on a previously issued identification card. The card-holder may be a patron who has made a cash deposit, a representative of a fIrm which has made an advance payment, or an academic/corporate/municipal department which has authorized a fund transfer to the library. Each usage debits the card by a preset amount. When the value left on the card is zero, the usage control unit will deny access. It is also possible to code an expiration date into the card. The cost of a card encoder is $1,995.
A $5,800 unit is available for patrons to increase the amount on their cards by putting coins or dollar bills into a collection device. This selfservice encoding could save considerable staff time in an active library.
Obviously the VendaCard system is not for every library. The real beneficiaries will be libraries which are currently spending hundreds of hours each year keeping track of charge accounts for copier and micro users.
[Contact: XCP, Inc., 8 W. Main Street, Dryden, NY 13503. Telephone: 607- 844-9143.]