Columbus (OH) Metro Library Now Self-Check-Out Only


Porch Geese writes "Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library recently moved to make their self-serve check-out system the only method patrons could use when borrowing materials from their main branch. They haven't fired the circ staff, yet. And they haven't exported that approach to any of the branches, yet, either. But there is a growing number of patrons who are unhappy about the removal of the human touch from their library experience."


While I'm sure Columbus has good reasons, it's a shame that it has to be one or the other.

The new self-check machines at our public library are slick (much better than the previous generation), and I suspect they account for the bulk of circulation--but for people nervous about them, there's a welcoming circ desk right across the way. Which rarely has lines, thanks to self-check.

The Kmart near me had 4 self-checkout stations and apparently they were more trouble then they were worth because they were gone in less than a year.

I don't believe a lot of libraries would make it an either-or situation, but if this became norm I would wonder if by disconnecting the human element libraries don't hasten their own demise. Why go to a library to use a catalog to find a book to use a computer to check out a book when I can download the book at home and save myself the trip?

That is interesting. In disconnecting the human element libraries are they making librarians less important? Libraries less important?
Good questions.

I probably feel different about this than many people do, but I prefer self checks in many environments. Meijers (a large middlewestern chain that combines grocery shopping with light hardware, home, kitchen, clothing etc) has self checkout lanes and I really prefer them, of course that might be because their staffing of normal checkout lines is woefully inadequate.

I wish Borders had self checkout, especially during the Holidays, since I actualyl skipped buying books because the line was not worth it unless I had a need for a particular book.

I do not see it being a bad thing for libraries UNLESS it forces them to reduce staff, as long as they maintain current staffing and refocus those labor hours to other activities, this would be a win win.

The problem with grocery/retail self-check outs is trying to do too many things. If all you had to do was scan a card and scan grocery bar codes you'd be fine, but when you try to add vegies with no produce numbers, weight, coupons, five ways of payment it bogs down.

At our library in a Midwest micropolis, a few of our patrons would be grateful that they didn't have their reading choices perused by the check-out staff. I remember an acquaintance half-pleading that I not tell anyone she was pregnant as she checked out "What to Expect When You're Expecting" Of course I would never say a word, but she would have loved the self-check out.

On the flip side our older readers would picket if they were forced to use yet another computer.

I do reference in addition to circulation and I find check out is often reference-readers advisory in disguise. A machine will not ask the patron "did you find everything you needed?"

All this is obvious, but to me it underlines why I think Columbus is making a mistake.

I agree with you on most points. I prefer using the self-check cash registers at the grocery stores. But, I used to be a cashier and am pretty picky about how they pack my food and it's faster for me most days.

However, I think generally libraries turn to self-check stations as a way to reduce staff or to deal with staff cuts. We have 1 self-check station installed here and it isn't used as often as the desk. You can't pick up holds at a self-check station, and we have certain age restrictions on certain items (ex:r-rated videos) that for the time-being staff members have to check ids. These problems are supposed to be worked out before we install stations at the rest of the branches, but we keep finding more and more problems so who knows how it will all end up.

What I wonder is, how does Columbus handle fines? Can the patron pay at the self-check station or does the reference desk have to take fines? Anybody out there know?

Columbus has had self checkout for the better part of a decade now. I loved it when I first discovered it. It was particularly useful in the video section upstairs, where the lines could get quite long on a Friday afternoon.

But what I've now discovered I loved best about it was the choice I had between using the self-serve system or interacting with a person who might help me with some question or extra issue.

But it's not a one or the other choice. Columbus has had self check available for many years now, and it's been a great system. I don't think they should get rid of it. And I don't think they should get rid of staffed checkout either. It wasn't one or the other. It was one or both, and Columbus chose one.

The staff is still there, but their workload has changed. If you need some assistance, you have to go get a staff member to come help you with the self checkout machine. Many patrons already have difficulty approaching staff. I can't imagine this will help.

I work at a library that has self-charge machines. At our main branch we are using them almost exclusively, although if you really are in favor of having a person check you out, it's available. However, I can tell you right now that the reason for using them was NOT to reduce staff, but to shift staff workload. The volume of circulation, inter-library loan, and so on has increased the back room work tremendously. The circulation folks just flat out don't have the time to be helpin g the customers as much. There's too much demand and too much work to do. I feel badly for those customers who don't like this approach, but we have to face facts: libraries are under severe budget crunches right now, and the increased workload does help. The choice is to decrease staff to help with budget problems, or to keep the staff you have but shift their work so that they are most efficiently used.

This makes a lot of sense, and I applaud the concept of shifting workload without reducing staff.

I would much rather have a well staffed reference desk than a well staffed checkout desk.

Right. To me it seems a little sad that Columbus made a choice of one. Our library chose both, which is a more patron-friendly choice.

Where do you work? I make it a habit to avoid any library system that refers to me as a "customer".