Improving Patron Service Through Technology

Circulation Technology
Patrons using shelf check

Increasingly, we are all faced with self-service. From gas stations and grocery stores, to online transaction processing, we deal with technology in many environments. Finding self-check equipment in libraries would not be a surprise or challenge for patrons to master.

Shifting the Focus to Key Services

Implementing circulation technology can be a springboard to making other long-overdue changes.

In many libraries, adding this equipment leads to a change in service model, encompassing the removal of large, centralized circulation desks in favor of smaller service points. This creates an atmosphere of approachability where patron and librarian are equals that work together.

Others have transformed the new-found space into popular collection and seating spaces, encouraging browsing and socializing.

Regardless of what you do with the space, this is a time to revisit your library’s mission, and the needs of the community. You have an opportunity to reallocate resources, giving greater attention to patron needs and the development of innovative programs and services — solidly positioning your library for whatever the future holds.

Self Check Station
Place self-check stations near staff work stations and in high-use, high-traffic areas of your library.

Busting the Customer Service Myth

There are many who believe self service signals the end of customer service. However, libraries that have implemented circulation technology cite numerous benefits:

  • Faster check-out
  • The ability to return items to the shelf more quickly
  • Increased collection security / theft reduction
  • More reliable inventory control
  • Higher circulation rates
  • Reduction in overall library staff cost
  • Reduction in repetitive stress injuries
  • Improved morale and job satisfaction

To encourage adoption of use by patrons, consider:

  • Intuitive, easy-to-use equipment
  • Placement of self-check stations near staff work stations and in high-use,
    high-traffic areas of your library
  • Implementing self-service holds
  • Hosting an open house post-installation so users can test the new equipment

Identifying Your Goals & Objectives

Incorporating circulation technology equipment into your library operations will no doubt streamline and change many processes and workflows. Review the following list. Will incorporating circulation equipment have a positive or negative effect — or little or no impact?

  • Speed of check out
  • Speed of check in
  • Patron privacy
  • Increasing speed to shelf
  • Faster processing of “holds”
  • Collection inventory accuracy
  • Material security
  • Theft reduction
  • Programming & events
  • Community outreach
  • Space flow
  • Visual clutter
  • Collection merchandising
  • Staff morale
  • Staff repetitive stress injuries
  • Professional reputation of staff
  • Awareness of library services

Take a moment and review the list again. This time evaluate if the outcomes are a necessity, something that would be nice to have, or something your library can live without.

Innovative Program Ideas & Events

Shifting the focus of library staff from routine tasks can lead to the development and delivery of innovative, engaging programs. Here are a few examples from libraries around the country.

Selecting the Right Technology

The key to developing a plan that’s right for your library is to understand how the equipment will enhance your patrons’ experience and services. Knowing this will also help you select the right type of technology:

  • Bar Code: Allows you to automate collection processing utilizing barcode technology. This technology does not offer any collection security
  • Electromagnetic: The primary reason for this technology is collection security
  • RFID: The most flexible and robust option for truly automating your material processing operations. Tags can store immense amounts of data that can be used to inform staffing decisions, collection weeding strategies, and more
  • Hybrid: This is an option for libraries that already have an EM security system in place and wish to upgrade to RFID. This system has the flexibility to have a mixture of tags if it is not necessary or feasible to retag the entire collection

Keeping staff tethered to workstations processing patron materials is no longer an effective use of their time, nor an expected service requirement. The following resources can provide more insight into how circulation technology equipment allows staff to reallocate their time, giving greater attention to patron needs.


Angie Schoeneck

Angie Schoeneck

Growth Strategy Manager at Demco, Inc.
Angie is the Growth Strategy Manager at Demco. She focuses on the evolving needs and trends in education and library environments, their patrons and communities, and translating these into relevant products and services. She has an extensive background in new product development, product management and business process improvement.