Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Library's without Librarians?

A couple of months ago my library made a very noticeable change.  When you had a book on hold and ready to be picked up, instead of going to the circulation desk and having the librarian find the book on the shelfs kept behind the desk and then checking you out, it is now up to the library user to get their book and then take it to the desk to check out.

They library cleared off a wall of shelves and now puts all the books/items on those shelves for people to find themselves.  There are sheets of paper sticking out of them with your name so you can easily identify which ones are for you.

While I don't mind finding the books myself, when it first happened I wondered if this was just the beginning.  What else would the library end up changing that would require the users to do more and the librarians to do less, meaning they wouldn't be needed?

I have to admit that I don't use the library much myself, at this point I only use it for audio books and some cookbooks.  However I understand the need for a great library system and I know how much it's a blessing for a lot of people/families.    So while I don't mind the change, it just made me wonder what we could expect, how would this effect the library in the long run.  A library needs librarians.

Then, about 2 weeks ago I was in the library picking up an audio book and I noticed a computer set up on the circulation desk but facing where users could use it..and it was off to the side. It also had other equipment by it.  Everyone walks by this when they head into the library, so it's easily noticed.  I was on my way to check out with my audio book and took a closer look.  It's a self-serve checkout.   Uh-oh. One more thing that library users could do themselves without the need of a librarian.

I have to admit, I used it. It worked great, it was super easy and fast.  I used it because, heck, I work on pc's and new things interest me, I had to give it a try myself.  You put your books, all of them, on a pad in front of the pc.  Then you scan your card using the same device the librarians have on their pc's.  The pad picks up what books you are checking out and will mark them as being checked out to your account. You then press the prompt on the screen to print a receipt and you are free to leave. It takes less than 5 minutes.

Then I was back in the library a couple days ago, and I used it again. I admit it...I did.   There was a line to check out with the librarians and nobody on the self-serve machine.  I was able to check out my books and was on my way out the building before the librarians had finished checking out the people they were helping when I walked up to the self serve machine.  I cringe saying this, but I like the self serve machine.  It's faster, it's easy.

Yet, it worries me. I don't want to see librarians being let go because technology is phasing them out.  I worry about what is next.  If I can pick up my own reserve books and then check myself out, what's next?

Have you noticed these changes in your library?  What are your thoughts about these changes?  Is it all bad or are there some good aspects to it?


Su-sieee! Mac said...

It will be the library techs and library aides that lose their jobs. It's been years since I've seen a librarian check in/out books or hand me a book on hold. The other day, I learned that a library tech at my library did the actual search and ordering of books for interlibrary loans I requested.

I wonder if librarians will eventually be called knowledge managers or information specialists because they use the Internet more often to find answers for patrons.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

P.S. I like your new blog look. I've been reading your posts through the RSS feed so it's been awhile since I've come by. Obviously. :-)

Gary Baker said...

The EXACT same thing is happening here - Richmond, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom - across the pond. I was there not 20 minutes ago.
Talk is of having the library services manned by volunteers in the very near future. And e-books? I'm wondering how libraries will handle those.

Anonymous said...

Our library has the same things. I don't mind finding my own book on the hold shelf. That really saves time. But I haven't used the self-check out yet. Usually when I go to the library, there's not a big line at the check out desk. But if there were, I would probably try the self check-out.

Unfortunately, at our small library, the librarians don't really know about the books. They are just part-time help who are there to return books to the shelves and check the books out.

bermudaonion said...

Our library has had the self check-out for a long time and recently added the hold shelves like yours has. The last time I got a book from the library, I didn't interact with a soul and I thought it was all kind of sad.

Anonymous said...

My library has self-checkout, and you have to get all holds -- except for interlibrary loans -- yourself. There are a couple of librarians devoted to checkout, though, so they're not gone. I find that the self-checkout is much more efficient, and I like that now there are more librarians in each area to answer questions and make suggestions, etc. The Girl is always asking the librarians for suggestions!

Kris said...

Su-sieee! Mac - Thanks for the kind words, I'm so glad you like the new look. I loved my owls, but a new look was needed. And I mostly read on my Google reader so I tend not to notice blog changes too.

It will be interesting to see if the job title changes. I don't really know what happens behind the scenes or know exactly what librarian's do all day. I, obviously, only see them doing the things I need done..such as checking out books.

Gary - oh no..volunteers? I would hate to see the library lose all it's employees and work just with volunteers. I would imagine things wouldn't run as smooth and a lot of knowledge would be lost. I know I can download e-audio books from my library, it's supposed to then "disappear" within a couple of weeks, like a normal library hold. I wonder if they will do the same thing as e-books? Or perhaps a book will be in e-format for the masses and only libraries will get printed copies to loan out? You ask an excellent question!

Lynne - It looks like we aren't alone with the self-holds and self-check out. I honestly haven't discussed books or asked for recommendations from a librarian in an incredibly long time, so I haven't noticed the lack of bookish knowledge. From the comments, I think it might be common these days, unfortunately.

Bermudaonion - It is sad! Even though I liked how fast and easy it was for me to do everything myself, I did miss the interaction.

Professor Stacy said...

Our local branch has had self checkout for three years. It is kinda sad, but it also very convenient!

Kris said...

Diaryofaneccentric - OH..I never thought about that! That now since they don't have to focus on checking out books they are more available to help with questions, etc. I just hope the ceo's etc see that and don't cut jobs.

Kris said...

Prof. Stacy - I'm glad to see I'm not the only one using the self-checkout, I was feeling guilty, but it's so nice!

Ladytink_534 said...

Bet that would simplify things but wouldn't you have to worry about someone picking up what you placed on hold?

Kris said...

ladytink - I don't think so, when I put my hold items on the pad and scan my card, it shows on the screen the items that I have ready to be picked up and will mark that I got them. My guess is that if I picked up a wrong item it wouldn't let me check it out.