For the first time since I started working at the St. Thomas Public Library over 20 years ago, a new and different kind of technology graces a small space near the corner of the Customer Service desk. A “Self Check-out Unit” stands silent, ready and eager to help the public help themselves. Its arrival was certainly no surprise given our society’s ever increasing demand for speed and efficiency. Although intimidating at first glance, closer inspection of the machine reveals large easy to read instructions and clear, colourful, helpful illustrations. After swiping your current library card, you are required to type your PIN (Personal Identification Number) right on the monitor. (You don’t know your number? Simply ask a staff member at the desk and she’ll copy it onto an instruction leaflet for you to keep for the future. This leaflet also explains how you can personalize your PIN and make it anything you want it to be!) You are then guided through the checkout process, and shown how to run each book under a scanner which records the barcode. The unit then issues a receipt which lists your checked out items and their corresponding due dates. (It also informs you of any items that didn’t check out properly.) Once you are accustomed to the process, you will find it quick, personal and convenient. This unit provides our customers with an alternative to the traditional routine of standing in line. (It’s all about choices, isn’t it?) Many of our customers appear to enjoy acquainting themselves with Self Check-out; using such adjectives as “cool” and even “brilliant” to describe it.
Self check-out can never, of course, completely replace the assistance that you are given by the staff working at the Customer Service Desk. Items you have on hold, audio-visual materials, and Interlibrary Loans must be checked out by library staff as the due dates for these items vary. There is also a whole myriad of questions concerning the collection and loaning policies that only an actual person can answer. (Besides that, machines can’t smile and ask how you are today!) However, what the Self Check-out can do is decrease waiting times in line, alleviate congestion, and ease strain on the staff. In accordance with this library’s desire to “progress with the times,” this form of technology takes a logical step. Once St. Thomas Public Library has moved back to its permanent location downtown, our Self Check-out will be located near the new multi-purpose Customer Service desk. This desk will be staffed both for Customer Service (Circulation) and Reference, thus providing our public with complete all round service.
So if you are planning to visit the St. Thomas Public Library in the near future (We certainly hope you are!), be brave and give the Self Check-out a try. Someone on staff is always close by and will be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
Things are always changing and change can be a very good thing!
-BH & EL