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If you see me

July 1, 2008

If you see me out and about at a branch or the main library these days, I may be testing, using or showing new technology to patrons.

This is a self-check machine that is being testing at the Main Library. This machine is at the circulation desk. It sits in the middle of the desk and each time I walk by, people standing in line waiting for a staff member to check them out, but no one is using the self-check.

On the other hand, people love the two 3M self-check machines located just down the Great Hall between the General Reference desk and the circ desk. No one is there assisting (I don’t think) but that is where independent patrons go. They were being used heavily yesterday when I went to show patrons our new registration kiosk.

Showing the registration kiosk was quite interesting. The people who came to use it were directed to go there, all except one. They were all able to follow the instructions. It’s as easy as filling out a web form. Everyone seemed to know exactly how to do it. I noticed most of the people who did knew that they can use the tab key to move to the next field, or to click the mouse. (Vi has written the program so even if they use the down arrow or the enter key it will still move down to the next field.)  Also, it’s interesting how many people, especially kids, automatically begin to type in the area code of their phone number. I remember a time when people didn’t even know their area code. This tells me people use computers a lot and are used to filling in forms.

I did see that a lot of people don’t bother to capitalize their name (not a surprise). I also witnessed the teenager of the family stepping up to fill in the registration form (“I like computers,” she said). I encountered one person who may have been functionally illiterate (or just a really really bad speller) and this could pose a problem in the future.

The registrations printed out at the circulation desk staff printer and patrons then walked over to sign the form and finish their registration there. The data the patrons entered did not go into any database; it just printed out. But this saved staff the trouble of filling out the form. I am really interested in knowing if circ staff found this process helpful or if it saved them time. Also, can circ staff deal with misspellings, etc? We can expect a lot of that, but circ staff are the ones who are typing the information into our database so they can edit it as they enter it.

There was also a situation where a young patron couldn’t check out his book at self-check because his barcode was damaged. He was able to step 12 inches to his right, fill out the registration for a replacement card, and then get a new card at the desk. However, he had to check his books out there because the self-check machine did not allow him to type in his number. We are currently starting to think how we will have to change the way we do things so that each patron doesn’t run into an exception which prevents him from using self-check. We need to really think differently and be open to doing things differently to make self-check and self-registration possible.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sean Robinson permalink
    July 1, 2008 12:18 pm

    Great job Melissa! I really liked your observations. It is going to be a interesting and challenging process to migrate forward into the self-check arena.

  2. IT Mike permalink
    July 7, 2008 11:49 am

    I wonder if people feel guilty about using the self-checkout machine there at the circulation desk. It’s like me going inside my bank and having to choose between using a teller and the ATM. I could use the ATM in 9 seconds flat and be on my way, but then I think that my using a machine instead of a person might put them out of a job soon. The 3M checkout machines are away from the circ desk, so it’s one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things. Just a thought…

  3. Melissa permalink*
    July 7, 2008 12:03 pm

    I use self-service whenever possible, at the grocery store, at the bank, and the library. I like it because I like being independent and not having to wait in line. I can’t wait till I get to pay my fines online.

    I don’t think about putting people out of a job. I have not seen one of these self-service places that has no humans also working there. Perhaps there are less people and I don’t notice it?

  4. Joe permalink
    July 8, 2008 2:40 pm

    Melissa in your article you say you saw patrons standing in line at the circulation desk waiting for an attendant to check them out and no one using was using the self check on the center of the circulation desk, and you said people do use the 3m self checks. A lot of times when a patron is standing in line waiting for an attendant they are unable to use the self checks for one reason or another, I think part of the reason this self check does not get used as much as the others is because of placement, with it sitting in the middle of the circulation desk patrons who could use the self check do not pass other patrons standing in line to go up and use it for fear of upsetting someone or know if they should. I feel if the self check was somewhere that we could have a line just for it, making the self check more accessible patrons would be more apt to use it.

  5. Melissa permalink*
    July 8, 2008 2:54 pm

    I agree with you, Joe, I think it’s placement. I find it interesting that patrons here are so darn polite, they don’t ever try to step in front of others like you see happening at other places of business.

    I wonder if the behavior would change if the area were roped off differently–having “lanes” instead of one common line. I guess there are a zillion different scenarios that could be considered and each agency will have to figure out what works best for its customers.

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. Joe permalink
    July 14, 2008 9:46 am

    Yes, Melissa for as long as I’ve been working with the patrons at the Main Library the greatest majority of them are Polite, also friendly and intelligent. We have a lot of regular patrons that are a joy to work with. For the most part we have a very friendly and pleasant group of patrons. I’ve also been told by a number of our patrons that they like working with people rather then machines when I try to encourage them to use the self check.

  7. Linda permalink
    July 17, 2008 8:23 am

    I agree with you and Joe about the placement being the reason that the self-check machine at the check out desk is not used. If there were a separate line (well marked) for the self-check, I think it would be used. Many times I come up to the line at the check out desk, and I ask all the people in front of me if any of them want to use the self-check. When they say “no”, I go ahead of them and use it. Maybe some of the people standing in line don’t even know what I’m talking about and don’t know that they have that option. Like Joe said, “when a patron is standing in line waiting for an attendant they are unable to use the self checks for one reason or another.”
    Self check is a great thing, and I think with a little re-arrangement, it will be better.

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