Liberated from the Circulation Desk - Now What?

I’ve been involved in several library remodels and building projects lately for public libraries in the 15,000-30,000 square foot range. My job is to help select self-check systems, and to implement RFID and automated materials handling technologies for the purposes of optimizing materials handling workflows.  However, optimizing materials handling workflows is really about optimizing services to patrons.  Selecting technologies and making recommendations about how to optimize their use is the easy part.  The harder part is helping libraries transition from their traditional staff-based circulation workflows to self-service workflows which free up staff to focus on other patron needs without the constraints, and structure, provided by the traditional circulation desk model.

Traditionally, the circulation desk is the first thing you see as you enter the library. The staff at the circulation desk are not generally librarians although I’m pretty sure the public considers everyone at the library a “librarian.”  So when the patron enters the library, what they encounter is someone working hard to get through a big pile of library material. There might even be a long line of people waiting to check-out their material. Maybe the staff person looks up when the patron enters, maybe not.

RFID and AMH Opportunities to Improve Patron Experience at Dayton Metro Library

Dayton Metro Library has embarked on a series of initiatives that will transition the library from a 22-outlet system with book-centered spaces to a 17-outlet system designed to better serve the diverse needs of the Montgomery County community.

The Library contracted with The Galecia Group for help evaluating the potential benefits of using new technologies to create optimized workflows for staff and improve the customer experience.

The contract included assessing the benefits, costs, and return on investment of RFID and materials handling technologies. In addition, the project included a process in which staff would learn more about the technology and participate in a series of activities that would help them envision how RFID, sorters, self check-in, and self check-out, could be employed to free up staff time and library spaces allowing staff to focus on the evolving needs of their patrons and better serve their communities.