Library Automation & Self Serve

April 21, 2005 – BCLA conference

– Why automated service? There must be benefits for the customers, or why do it?
– One thing that it will do is it will free up staff some some of the heavy repetitive work.
– At one Maple Ridge library 300K out of 518K books checked out via the self check system.
– Keep the regular checkout, but make it small and inconspicuous. The other option is to have a roaming help person behind a desk of self help stations. Funnel people to self serve.
– If you use bar code system, they must be processed 1 by 1. RFID systems can process up to 16 books at a time.

– Fears must be addressed up front… both staff and patrons: job loss, change, invonvenience.
– Location of the self checkout equipment is Very Important. It if isn’t in a good location it will not work.
– It is easier to introduce changes like this in a new building or when doing major renovations, as people are expecting changes in those circustances.
– The technology must fit your work flow.
– Beware of problems when you upgrade your Library system… sometimes this will break the link between your automation system.
– You need to have a good relationship with your vendors.
– Extra steps in the return process can have a big impact on usage.
– Sorting systems are very expensive!
– The equipment is surprisingly gentle on the books and quiet.
– The automation system works with bar codes, but works much better with RFID tags
– Mechanical breakdowns typically fixed in 3 to 4 hours.
– Kids and youger people love the system… they are used to working this way.
– Loss of human contact in this context not an issue.

Tech Logic Presentation
– They did the Seattle library system (among others).
– Biggest issue to get around with an automated system are the blocks for self check (fines, exceeded limits).
– Different types of shelf check:
– stand alone
– roaming staff
– home depot style (w/ staff behind the desk to help several people if needed).
– Bar code or RFID? Most systems are one or another, or both – need to plan the migration.
– You can always force 100% usage of self serve system, but will the patrons be happy?
– Lines are much shorter w/ RFID – can check out 16 books at a time (rather than 1 by 1 w/ bar code).
– RFID can reduce checkout time and/or reduce the need for as many checkout stations.
– You can now integrate fine payment w/ credit or debit card -> and ask for donations at the same time.
– With RFID make sure you ge the ones w/ the theft bit on the chip so you can check out stacks of books at a time.
– Get chips based on ISO standards so that you’re not locked into a particular RFID chip vendor. Make sure the data is formatted by the vendor, so that you don’t get locked into a vendor. Get that in writing -> get a hard copy of the format.
– ISO 15693 is the standard being used. 18000 expand on the 15693 standard. Use 15693.
– Self checkout w/ ATM $15K per station.
– Self checkin w/ 5 bins $100K