Two automated bookcases at the Davis Library are fascinating library users.

When the Chronicle visited, a family spent several minutes observing the new auto-return shelves and screen as they returned their books. Frontline services manager Nicholas Keene said it was typical of the interest the new bookcases were generating, with Whanganui District Library one of only three New Zealand libraries to install the system.

"There have been a range of reactions and we've had a lot of conversations with people about how it works," Mr Keene said.

"It's a new piece of technology and people who have seen it at the Feilding Library think it's cool that we've got it here. The bookcase scans the returned book when people put it on the shelf and the screen shows them that the book has been taken off their library card.

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"It's been a huge process to set up and people will have seen us working through the library aisle by aisle to tag our 75,000 books with radio frequency identification (RFID) for the bookcase to scan.

"It's not replacing staff but the bookcases mean we don't have staff behind the desks scanning returned books. We have been quite desk-bound but this means we can have one person behind the desk to serve customers and another person, who would previously have been behind the desk, out in the library to help customers in different ways."

Mr Keene said the technology cost "basically what a staff member would cost" and would be cost-neutral within four years. The technology has a 10-year lifespan.

The RFID system has also been added to the library's CDs, DVDs and other materials.

Library performance manager Sonny Tamihana said staff and customers were still getting used to the bookcases dealing with returned books.

"It's so different to how we are used to operating," Mr Tamihana said.

"The idea that a bookcase can do it for you is quite a mental leap."

The bookcase system has eight shelves that can hold up to 400 items at one time.

The Davis Library also has three new self-checkout kiosks where people can issue their own books.

"We had self-checkout before but these are better than the previous machine," Mr Keene said.

"They are as simple to use as an ATM machine which most people are used to. If it wasn't simple, it wouldn't work."

The self-checkout kiosks have audio, visual, touch and text features, with large screens that allow space for library promotions and recommended reads, and enable users to pay fees and charges.