Posted by Lori Ayre on April 25, 2016

I've been participating in an interesting thread about self-check-out and someone asked me to state some Best Practices. So, here's one rendition of what I believe to be Best Practices for implementing self-service check-out.

1)  Implement RFID-based self-check. Implement with RFID to make everything easier and to make checking DVDs in and out easier (makes securing them easier too). 

2)  Incorporate Staff in implementation planning. Plan the implementation with the broad participation of staff.  RFID will affect all aspects of library services and everyone will be affected.

3)  Self-service Holds Pickup. All Holds must be self service pick-up, ideally with a dedicated self-check machine nearby.

4)  Choose self-checks with appealing design and intuitive use. The self-checks must be appealing. Think attractive kiosks instead of "computer on a desk."  And it should be completely obvious how to use them.

5) Get enough self-checks. Get enough enough self-checks so that people don't have to stand in line to use them except in those rare situations (e.g. after storytime). Think about 1 self-check-out per 125,000 circulations.

6) Conveniently locate self-checks.  Cluster self-checks around the entrance, and also put one at the self-service Holds pick-up shelves and another in the Children's area so kids can take their time without annoying other people (e.g. the Holds pick up people).

7) Address signage and wayfinding.  Add supportive signage at self-check machines as part of a larger wayfinding strategy that empowers patrons to find what they need where they need it.

8) Allow for fines and fees payment on self-checks. Must be easy to use and must be able to pay fines and fees on the self checks (by credit card). I don't recommend having a cash option (even if it might help the self-check numbers because the cash handling is such a pain in the butt).

9) Eliminate the "circulation desk" and create new service points-  Eliminate the old circulation desk and create new service points must define the new workflow.  For example, have one person near the entrance to support self-check users and to greet people arriving and to deal with security gate alarms. A Customer Service or Accounts desk is also important for a comfortable place to deal with accounts issues and get new library cards (without the stress of holding up people who just want to check-out).

10) Address messaging.  Also related to the signage thing but different.  Let patrons and staff know that this is about expanding services and giving staff MORE opportunities to engage with staff, not less.  And its definitely not about anyone losing their job. Patrons will decline self-service options if they think it is going to take away the jobs of library staff.  So have talking points that staff can share with patrons. 

11) Train staff for new service model and train staff how to train and help patrons. Extra staffing may be required at first to get patrons comfortable with the new setup. Make sure ALL training happens on the self checks.  Help patrons there even after roll-out.  Don't make patrons leave the self-checks to get help.  Help them complete their check-out on the self-check machines. This means you need a person monitoring the check-out area, on the floor, proactively supporting their use (and probably greeting people and responding to alarms).