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Self-service features come to libraries (Includes interview and first-hand account)

Self-service and automation are becoming more commonplace across a variety of storefronts and service groups. Businesses can use self-service technology to reduce costs, as well as taking advantage of data capture such as automating ledgers and allowing data to be used for analytics purposes. Consumers have the advantage of processing an item or interacting with the service at their own pace and at a time of their choosing.

Barnet library s library-as-a-service machines.

Barnet library’s library-as-a-service machines.

One area where self-service is catching on is at public libraries. The approach of supermarket check-outs has been successfully implemented in some areas for the borrowing of books, DVDs or CDs by library users. Library users can also update information, such as a change of address or log-onto library equipped WiFi to access community services over the Internet.

One location where library-as-a-service is in place is across the London Borough of Barnet. At the Chipping Barnet library there are four self-service machines.

Barnet library  in north London.

Barnet library, in north London.

One reason for the library service in Barnet to adopt to the technology is to enable eligible library card holders to use libraries during unstaffed opening hours. Through this, libraries can be kept open for longer.

Books on display at Barnet library.

Books on display at Barnet library.

In the U.K. public library services have been subjected to drastic cuts, initiated by the Conservative government. This has led to opening hours being reduced (through employing fewer librarians) or with some libraries closing altogether. The Barnet model is a means of counteracting these cuts to library expenditure.

The free service is available to any user who has upgraded their library card. The user can enter the library by scanning their card and entering a unique PIN into the self-service machine outside the library.

Information form for the library-as-a-service platform

Information form for the library-as-a-service platform,

Once connected, a user can borrow, renew, and return items using the self-service kiosks or access WiFi, e-books and e-audiobooks. In addition users can operate on the of the library’s computers to access online resources and photocopy and print items.

Library-as-a-service machines at Barnet Library.

Library-as-a-service machines at Barnet Library.

A range of newspapers and periodicals that the library has subscribed to can be read in digital form. Many of these can be accessed remotely, such as from a library user’s home with access available 2/7.

With audiobooks, the library features a new e-audiobook service operated by BorrowBox. This allows users to borrow and download audiobooks through the e-audiobook app.

Library-as-a-service being used by local people at Barnet Library  in north London.

Library-as-a-service being used by local people at Barnet Library, in north London.

Watching users interact with the self-service machines seemed straightforward and the transactions were completed rapidly, without any obvious technical hitches.

The library-as-a-service machine close up  at Barnet Library in London.

The library-as-a-service machine close up, at Barnet Library in London.

Since library-as-a-service initiatives help libraries to provide solutions to cuts made to public expenditure and to become more relevant to millennials through a offering more digital content, then the overall strategy undertaken by Barnet signals a way forward for other library services worldwide.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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