May 16, 2023 — The University of Houston Law Library is implementing innovative solutions such as a book vending machine, open periodical shelving and self-checkout machines. These options provide students access to study materials while engaging faculty and extending the Law Library’s presence beyond its physical walls.
With the move in fall 2022 to the UH Law Center’s new John M. O’Quinn Law Building, the library focused on outreach and space maximization for its new location.
“We began to think outside of the box for how we could have the best experience for the students while also meeting the requirements of the university about square footage and layout,” said Amanda Watson, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the UH Law Center Library.
The vending machine went live this semester on the third floor of the John M. O’Quinn Law Building outside of the faculty offices. It is stocked with practical materials such as Bluebooks, citation manuals, study aids and books of various types to assist students in their research and study. Throughout the year, the vending machine will be assessed to learn what circulates the most and what items should be increased, decreased or added.
Students can check items out by scanning their Cougar Cards, and the vending machine reads an embedded RFID chip. After removing items and closing the door, the machine runs an inventory and notes all books removed since its last scan.
“The addition of the vending machine did two things,” Watson said. “It extended the presence of the library to a floor we did not have square footage on, and it also gave students that are not regular users of the library for whatever reason an opportunity to access critical materials. That is very important.”
The new law building’s architectural design stretches faculty across two floors of the building, both separate from the library. After brainstorming ways to involve faculty despite being in a different physical space, periodical shelving was selected.
“We decided to put the journals at the entrance to the faculty suite instead of sending them in the mail,” Watson said. “We thought this would help to make the faculty feel connected to the library and reinforce the library’s voice in that specific area of the building.”
The periodical shelving is also located on the third floor of the John M. O’Quinn Law Building, providing convenient access to materials without taking up valuable shelf space.
“We also added self-checkout machines this year, which I think are nice,” Watson said. “It gives students the ability to check out books 24 hours a day. These options are all in the vein of giving students the best library service we can give them.”
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