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Comment – Lent 2011

by Sophie

Library self-service unconvincing

Lisa Budimir analyses the effectiveness of the Library’s new self-service system, which was implemented at the beginning of Lent Term.

The decision to make the library a more automated experience has been faced with a mixed reception from students.

The self-service machines can be used for issuing and returning books, paying outstanding fines, checking your records to see what you already have out on loan and renewing books quickly and easily without even having them with you. In theory, the machines will limit queues and allow users to check books in and out at their own pace, rather than having to wait in a line.

This promised ease of use hasn’t been obvious so far. On one trip to the Library I had four books to check out. One scanned through fine, whilst the other three had to have the bar code redone, meaning a member of the library staff had to come over and help. Meanwhile, a queue was steadily building up behind me; so much for a ‘faster’ service.

I’ve spoken to other students and overheard annoyed mutterings in the library, all saying the same thing: what is the point of self-service? Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with them. Perhaps when everyone gets used to the new system, they will find it easier and the promised benefits will become apparent.

But for now, most aren’t convinced. The new Library system has been described as faceless and impersonal and I must admit, even when you do manage to work the machines by yourself and without any issues, there is something missing. Going to the desk to take books out at least provided some interaction, however small. Now we simply face a screen, scan the books and leave without needing to say a word to anyone.

For some people this may not be a problem, but it saddens me to see the Library become another impersonal environment. However, it seems like self-service is here to stay, so despite our misgivings, it may be best to remain open-minded.

This article was published in Pendragon, Lent Term Issue Two.