Area libraries push self-serve checkout

Everything Alabama has this story about self-serve checkout.
"Machines cost about $24,000, about the same as a circulation clerk's annual salary. So a heavily used machine quickly pays for itself." But wipes out a job!? - Amke

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Self Serve

Not only does it knock out a job is compromises library usage. No one is saying that there needs to be a whole crew of checkout people, but none at all? It severly affects the flow of materials. It also makes people who are afraid of machines less apt to use the library, Think of all the self-serve gas stations and supermarket checkouts that people do not use. It is interesting that people will pay as much as 20-30 cents more a gallon and not pump their own gas.
To completely remove a checkout person makes these same people more intersted in using the net at home or even buying the materials. In an age where in house library usage in in adownward spiral couldn't people think of another way to save money and not discourage usage.

Re:Self Serve

If it "works" as well as the supermarket checkouts, no wonder people aren't using them. Or am I the only person who *always* gets stuck behind the person who doesn't know what they're doing and refuses to ask for help?

Re:Self Serve

Yes, but, I don't see anything in the story that says they wouldn't also have circulation clerks, which would be horrendous for a well-run public library. My local library has both, and the combination works well (most people use self-serve, I think, which means the lines for regular checkout are short). That encourages use by all concerned.

Hereabouts, I haven't seen anyone pay 20 or 30 cents more a gallon to not pump their own gas in a long time, even if that option is offered. Which it mostly isn't: The single full-service lane in most stations has become self-serve.

Then again, I wasn't aware that library usage was in a downward spiral: The numbers I've seen seem to show the opposite--and in-house use is certainly increasing, if you count online database use as use.

Taking away the personal-service option is a terrible idea. Providing a faster alternative, with machines that work, is a wonderful idea. (We don't have those self-serve supermarket checkout thingies around here, as far as I can tell, just as we mostly don't have "full service" gas lanes. Maybe Silicon Valley is just backward.)

Re:Self Serve

They had them in Clearwater and some people used them but they simply confused some patrons, especially the older patrons. I have even seen someone attempting to use it as a copier.


I really think that they would be better served by a circulation clerk. The machine can't help set up a holiday display, point people to the loo, make change for the copier, or any of the myriad other things staff can do.


As an adjunct, sure but I think 24K is a bit much for them.


I also hate the self service check outs at the home supply store and grocery. I think those will go away too as soon as they realize that they need just as many people to supervise them. Heck people don't have to pay for library books, people will steal stuff from the store to avoid paying. (of course they steal from the library too, but thats another topic.)

self-check out and jobs

I'm not crazy about self-check out because the machines vary from store to store, and they are confusing for people who only occasionally use them.

However, equating everything with job loss doesn't make sense. I think I read that Ohio lost 200,000 jobs with the "do not call" law, and thousands could lose jobs when anti-SPAM legislation finally has teeth. There are always trade-offs. Many small book stores have probably suffered or closed from the popularity of Amazon.com, but many authors have benefitted who would have never gotten shelf space at a Borders or B&N. E-Bay has closed some Mom & Pop antique stores, but thousands more have flourished without the cost of a bricks and mortar store.

Self Check Silliness

Our self check system is anything but reliable. I know that there must be reliable machines out there somewhere, but not in this library. The thing goes down at least once every other day. It's extremely picky and if there's anything wrong with the patron's card, then it refuses to check out. And then there's the good ol' fashioned, always reliable, and usually comical human factor.

Some people have asked me why we have an ATM in the library. People have stuck their library card in the receipt output thinking that's how the machine scans their card. Others will do everything right up to the point of checking out, then fail miserably because the spine of the book isn't up against the desensitizer.

I had one person who, while getting a new card, asked about the library password. I explained that it's an optional thing so they could check their account from home and it allows some measure of security so others can't view your account too. Apparently, I shouldn't have used the word "account." They put down a four number password, which isn't all that unusual, and I gave them their card. Later on, I found them at the self check, doing everything right up to the point where they were trying to enter their "PIN."

The problems I've seen and experienced with self check machines are similar to the problems I've seen and experienced with self service check out in stores. Some people will take the time and energy to learn to use the machine. Others don't care, don't bother, have too much to remember already, and would much rather have another living organism check them out. I think it'd be helpful if both machines had some kind of expert mode. I know how to use the self checks at the supermarket and whatnot. I don't need the same annoying female voice telling me to "scan my next item" and "place it in a bag." And for the people who do use our self checks, they don't need the same annoying screen over and over: "Please place next item on tray. Remove your card after your last item."

So right now, I have little to no fear that these things are going to replace me. I'm sure others feel differently, but right now, it's my experience that these machines aren't really all that great. I've noticed that, for the most part, the same people use them over and over again. That is to say that, when others try them, they tend not to stick with it.

Re:Self Check Silliness

A couple of years ago I read an article about self-checkout in libraries that pointed out that the circulation staff got stuck with a higher proportion of people with problems -- holds on their library accounts, trying to take out non-circulating items, etc. Staff stress rose as a result, since they spent more of their time dealing with angry or upset patrons without the leavening effect of those happy, trouble-free patrons.

Book checkout (depending on the library) can be a complicated process. Supermarket self-checkout works if you KNOW everything you have is barcoded, doesn't have to be weighed, and doesn't require proof of age. Forget it if you are buying parsnips and beer. Unfortunately, many people aren't familiar enough with optimum parameters to make that judgement. I would expect the same of library patrons -- considering that they routinely try and borrow books with "Library Use Only" prominently displayed on them.

And a hobby horse of mine -- I try never to use "check out" in any documents or conversations with the public. You are not "checking out" the books the same way you are checking out your parsnips and beer. You are BORROWING them and we expect them back!

job losses

It shouldn't lead to job losses at all, unless your library management is completely inept.

Like other people have said, the machines aren't 100% foolproof. We've used them as a customer service thing, so people have a choice about where they borrow things. Some people like the anonymity, some deaf people like the instructions. Folk on circulation have been able to do other things apart from heaving books around.

Re:Self Serve

With respect for the comments they are not based on fact. City after city are installing Self-checkout and they are adding tremendous value. The key to success are the following. Correct placement in Library, pre-planned effort by library to educatate and direct customers to self check. Where this is happening libraries are achieving 70 % and higher usage. Interestingly there is no evidence that anyone is being laid off. This is because the catalogue is growing in most libraries, and dramatically. This is in large part due to cd's and dvd's.

Self checkout is often preferred by patrons because they can make their transaction privately without having their materials reviewed by circulation workers etc. Finally, there is strong evidence from recent ergonomic studies that circulation workers have a very high incidence of RSI or repetitive stress injuries. These are causing life long problems and raising insurance rates for the libraries.

Finally, when looking at earlier self-checkout systems from 3M and Checkpoint you did not have a graphic interface. This has caused many of these machines not to be used because they are not easy to use and understand. This is not the case with some newer products from other vendors like Library Automation Technologies, VTLS and Tech Logic.

The gas pump analogy is bad because their is no added value to the patron as their is in a Library.

Thanks,

Eric

self checkouts in a real busy branch!

Well, we don't have them in the special library in which I work, but the local public library system does use a few self checkout stations in conjunction with the circulation desk. They are off to the side of the desk, and I think they are great!

You have a choice between (usually) standing in line to check out or using the machines. Depending on the line, I use the self checkout, but do see a few people having problems sometimes.

This particular branch is so busy that I haven't noticed any fewer circulation people, just shorter lines at peak periods (when I tend to go!)

Re:Self Check Silliness

"And a hobby horse of mine -- I try never to use "check out" in any documents or conversations with the public. You are not "checking out" the books the same way you are checking out your parsnips and beer. You are BORROWING them and we expect them back!"

My automation program uses the terms check in/check out. And I don't really see it being an issue being confused with the grocery store. While I may call the cashier the "check out" I never say I'm checking out my groceries now. Perhaps it's different in other parts of the world.

I find my children (at work) often say they want to "rent" the book. I correct them and say borrow, but they're so used to the video store, I guess; I've even had some parents use the term "rent". Although there's an idea: charge to borrow books...just kidding! I don't even charge overdue fines.

s/

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