April 21, 2018

Is Self Check Alienating?

Seattlest has a piece called Does Self-Checkout Make Libraries Less Friendly? in which the author gets all warm and fuzzy about his old library where he knew all the staff and they would chat when he was checking out books. The author, ID’d as James, says that since moving, he barely knows anyone at his local library and theorizes it’s because the facility offers self-checkout.

Initially I thought it was a load of crap, but maybe not. You’d know better than anyone. So how about it, do you think that self-check alienates you from your patrons, or is James just waxing nostalgic for his old branch?  



  1. Miriella says:

    At my library, we just started offering self checkout in conjunction with regular checkout. As a 10 year veteran of the circ desk, I sometimes have the overwhelming urge to run over to the patrons using self-checkout to at least say hello and goodbye to them – which would ultimately defeat the purpose of self checkout (they didn’t want to come talk to me to begin with…why am I going to them?) – so I do feel a bit of the friendly interaction is lost. However – the theory behind self-checkout is that it enables staff to engage in more meaningful tasks, be it reader’s advisory or giving better reference advice. It may not be the same for all libraries, but I think if patrons really do miss the personal interaction, they can come and find us. We are still at the public service desks, and out and about, searching for and shelving books. We haven’t gone into hiding in our offices because of self checkout. I personally don’t find the 40 second “Boy, isn’t the weather lovely outside?” (which, p.s. is a pretty mean question to ask someone who’s been stuck inside at a desk all day, but that’s another story ;) ) and “I can’t believe how much snow we got!” types of conversations to be very fulfilling anyway.

  2. Gotta love that quote. I can deal with that!!