Libraries add voicemail to free up librarians

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April 5, 2004 // UPDATED 1:10 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Sometime in the near future, you are going to call your local library and get an automated voice answering system.

Minneapolis Public Library Director Kit Hadley said the change would not save money, but it would allow staff to do higher-priority jobs.

"It is more important that our staff is freed up to help people in the libraries, to answer their reference questions, to get the books on the shelf," Hadley said. "It may be that none of us really like that, but it is becoming fairly standard across the public and private sector."

With the recent staff cuts, some libraries, such as East Lake, 2727 East Lake St., and Nokomis, 5100 34th Ave. S., have struggled with basic operations, such as getting books shelved, she said.

"Anecdotally, we have [library] aides tell us they spend at least an hour a day answering the phone -- to answer simple questions like 'Are you open?' 'How late are you open?'" she said.

Minneapolis and Scott County have the only two library systems in the seven-county metro area that don't use automated voice answering systems in at least some of their libraries, Hadley said. Bigger systems, such as St. Paul and Hennepin County, use it in all of their libraries.

She did not have a timeline for when the automated voice answering system would start, but staff is working on it. The system would provide a few basic choices, "then, if you need to speak to a person, you can speak to a person," she said.