While standing in line to check out books, movies, CDs, etc. from the library, you may have noticed a cart with a hot pink sign denoting "StreetSmart Express" items. It’s a new program for the library, described as "providing customers with another option to obtain high demand and high visibility materials in addition to the traditional reservation system."

To simplify, a friend of mine last week was looking for a copy of "The Bucket List" (a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman that came out in theaters earlier this year and on DVD more recently.)  A quick search shows that the library has 109 copies, but they are all either checked out, or being held or transferred for library card holders who have requested the DVD — except for three. So she called those three libraries, and the first two told her that it was a computer error; the DVDs were not available for check out.

It was the third library she called that told her she could check out the DVD — for $5.
That’s pretty much how StreetSmart Express works. If there’s a hot new book, CD or DVD that you want, you can place a request on the library’s website, not knowing how long you may have to wait for it because the website doesn’t give you a ranking (that’s one of the downsides to the Dallas Library’s new bells and whistles website). Or, if it’s on the StreetSmart Express cart, you can "check it out" from the library for $5.

Financially, it doesn’t quite make sense. I can rent a new release DVD from Blockbuster for $4, and from Redbox and other kiosks for $1. And if you’re going to spend $5 to check out a new CD, shouldn’t you just spent the full $9.99 to download it from iTunes? Not to mention that new hardcover books are usually marked 40 percent off at Barnes and Noble or Borders if they are hot bestsellers.

But the key to this new program is convenience. The cart is located right where you might be browsing as you wait in line to check out your materials. It’s no different than checking out at a grocery store, and being enticed by the magazine headlines and can’t-live-without-it gizmos (a miniature lint roller for 99 cents, anyone?). You can’t request StreetSmart Express items like you can other library items because the library won’t hold them for you. They stay in the cart, and they are first-come, first-served.

Who knows? Maybe it will help make up for the money the city either cut or didn’t add to the libraries this year.