Line up of patrons at Woodmere Circulation Desk
TADL, like libraries everywhere, is experiencing nearly unprecedented growth in demand while property tax revenues (used to pay routine expenses) continually decline. To address these challenges, the TADL Board has approved the implementation of technology that will enable patron self-service and improve efficiencies in materials handling. (updated April 23, 2012)
Q: How does express checkout work? 
A: An express checkout station allows patrons to checkout books, movies or music from the library on their own. Patrons can scan their library card, scan an entire stack of materials (books, cds, dvds, even puppets), and they are done! Patrons will also have the ability to pay their account fees at this machine with a simple swipe of their credit or debit card.
Q: What does the express checkout station scan? 
A: On your library card or drivers license, the machine scans the barcode; the same way staff scans them now. There is a bar code reader built in to the express checkout stations for this purpose. 
A: It then scans physical items (books, media items, puppets, etc.), from a signal coming from the RFID (radio frequency identification) tag on each item in the collection - after the patron places a short stack of books on the surface provided.
Q: Yikes! Every item gets a new RFID tag? How are you going to do that? 
A: All 380,000 items in the collections of all six TADL facilities will need to be “touched” to receive new RFID tags. A team of tagging specialists will be assembled to tag each item and connect it with the TADL catalog system. The entire tagging process will take about 16-18 weeks to complete - and could potentially be completed by September.
Q: Where will the express checkout stations be located? 
A: Plans are for four units in the lobby at Woodmere, three at standing height and one placed a little lower for wheelchair accessibility. Additional stations will be placed in the Youth Services department, in the Sight and Sound Department and in the Reference Department on the 2nd floor of the Main (Woodmere) Branch Library. 
Q: Will other TADL locations have express checkout stations? 
A: TADL evaluated the need for additional express checkout stations on a calculation of the number of circulation transactions already taking place as well as convenience. Although there are no immediate plans to do so, we would look next to our busiest community libraries - the Kingsley Branch and the Interlochen Public Library. 
Q. Why would the Woodmere lobby need to be renovated? 
A: Lobby design is critical to the optimization of express checkout. The plan is to:
Install an expanded hold shelf and make it accessible so that borrowers can help themselves to the holds waiting for them.
Create a location for the express checkout stations. 
Provide a welcome desk where staff can greet visitors as they walk in, introduce them to library services or direct them to ongoing programs and specialized library service areas. 
Q: Can circulation staff still checkout my items for me? 
A: We fully recognize that there are those in our community, especially those with severely handicapping conditions, who may need assistance. For this reason the staff at the lobby service desk will have the ability to provide assistance to those individuals. Otherwise, staff in the lobby, as well at all the service desks where express checkout stations are located, will be seizing every opportunity to show people how easy and convenient the process is by demonstrating the service to our new users.
Q: Why is the library considering this change to express checkout? 
A: In the last 12 months, TADL patrons generated 1.2 million circulation transactions - 80% of them at the Woodmere facility. Since 2009, TADL circulation has increased by 20% while its revenues have decreased. It is no longer possible to respond to increases in demand by simply adding staff support. With the use of public libraries increasing and revenues steadily decreasing, TADL - like all municipalities - must do everything in its power to control cost while continually providing and, where possible, improving the quality of services to the community we serve. 
Frequently there are long lines at each of the four staff circulation workstations. This situation can be frustrating for borrowers as well as the staff serving them. 
Frankly, the time for library express checkout peaked a while ago. Although innovative in this part of the state, we are implementing a mature checkout service system that has been tested and perfected through many “generations” over the last 10 to 15 years. The company to be recommended has been in the library service field a very long time. 
Q: What would this project cost?  
A: The estimated project budget for Phase I is $305,500 and covers express checkout stations, RFID detection equipment, tagging the collection and lobby renovation. The estimated project budget for Phase II is $144,000 and covers the 5-bin automated materials handling system with drop box installation. 
Q: How will TADL pay for the project? 
A: The project costs relate to one-time implementation costs. Funds for these purchases will come from the TADL Public Improvement Fund. The Friends of TADL have generously pledged to underwrite two express checkout stations. Going forward, routine purchase of RFID tags as well as maintenance of equipment would be covered by general operating funds. 
Q: Will the library be closed during the installation of express checkout and lobby renovation? How long will this take? 
A: The Woodmere (Main) Branch will be CLOSED August 26 - September 3, reopening the day after Labor Day on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 with fully optimized services including:
  • Accessible Hold Shelf
  • A New Welcome Desk that allows staff to greet visitors and provide direction to services and programs
  • Four Express Checkout Stations
Express checkout stations will be available in Youth Services and Sight and Sound some time in June; this will allow staff and patrons to try out our new system and see where adjustments need to be made. Plans will be finalized once the project is fully approved and launched. 
Q: Does implementing express checkout mean TADL employees could lose their jobs? 
A: One thing I want to make very clear to all employees and to the public: introducing express checkout is not going to mean regular employees will lose their jobs. Circulation staff will continue to serve the public through the welcome desk, stocking the holds shelf, offering readers advisory, and helping to implement MeLCat in the future. Rather than fill two full time vacancies in the Circulation department last year, TADL filled these positions with temporary part time workers - some new and some transferred from other areas of the library system - with the expectation that new technology could make those positions unnecessary when implementation is complete. 

Posted by Metta on Apr 6th 2012, 2:12am.