Licking County library patrons will soon have a new way to select titles or drop off materials, and they'll be able to do so any hour of the day.

Licking County library patrons will soon have a new way to select titles or drop off materials, and they'll be able to do so any hour of the day.

Through a partnership with Central Ohio Technical College, the Licking County Library, headquartered in Newark, is completing the installation of a "library-in-a-box" in the parking lot of the COTC Pataskala campus, 8600 E. Broad St., Reynoldsburg.

The unit, manufactured by EnvisionWare, will be the first of its kind in Ohio, library director Babette Wofter said.

Including site preparation, materials and software, she said the overall project cost totals about $300,000.

"The box itself is approximately $185,000," Wofter said in an email. "I secured approximately $118,000 in grant dollars. The remainder was paid for with library funds."

The unit looks somewhat like a large ATM with a large window showing books and other library materials. It will be placed in an enclosure about the size of a bus stop.

The self-service mini-library will hold between 350 and 375 books, DVDs and audiobooks, she said.

"We'll be placing materials for children and adults inside, and patrons can place a hold on items and have them delivered to the box," Wofter said. "I think it's very intuitive and simple -- we hope it will appeal to a large number of patrons."

The library-in-a-box will be accessible with a library card and will also have a slot for materials being returned. It has a kiosk for renewing items and paying overdue fees.

In addition, it will provide a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wofter said she first heard of the library-in-a-box at a conference last year.

While the library's bookmobile serves the western part of Licking County, none of the library's six locations are close by.

"The bookmobile does a wonderful job, but we really felt an obligation to find a way to enhance that service to this area," Wofter said. "We thought this could be an innovative solution and fit well with everyone's busy lifestyles."

COTC has provided the space for the unit along the northern edge of the school's Pataskala campus parking lot, along with its Internet connection, electricity and landscaping. The college's students will also benefit, according to COTC library director Katie Blocksidge.

"The library-in-a-box illustrates the strong partnership COTC has built with the community and also increases the number of ways COTC students can access materials from college and public libraries," Blocksidge said. "It makes the Pataskala campus an even richer resource for COTC students and the surrounding community."

Construction of the pad where the box will be placed, along with curbing and a canopy, is underway. Wofter said the library-in-a-box should be up and running around the end of this month. Once an exact date is determined, it will be celebrated with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting, details of which will be announced in the next few weeks.

ThisWeekNews.com will post the day and time of the grand opening once it has been scheduled.

Wofter said if grant funding can be found, the eastern portion of the county would be ideal for another library-in-a-box.

"We don't have anything currently in the Hanover area, and they're very busy with the bookmobile," she said. "It will depend on the budget, but that's the next area I would like to look at."

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