I’m now in a middle school library, after ten years as an elementary librarian, and I definitely use self checkout in middle school. I thought, if I can get my itty-bitty 1st graders to self-checkout then I could definitely get some teens to do it!
Below are pictures showing my setup for my middle school library.
Is it a perfect system? NO.
Do you get a lot of books lost at the end of the year? I probably do. Probably more than a non-self-checkout school but I haven’t compared numbers. I know I don’t have way more lost than when I wasn’t self checkout.
What do you do when you’re teaching a lesson and a walk-in comes in to checkout a book? They get to do the process and don’t have to go back to class or wait for me! And I call that a WIN! The only time they may wait is when they have an overdue account and they’re blocked from the process. As I’m teaching I can hear the sounds Destiny has been programmed with and hear that the process in being done correctly and they're checking in/out on their own. If their account is blocked they’ll wait until I come to a stopping point in my lesson and I can help them with my ipad.
How do you build that relationship with your students if you’re not directly checking out their books? I always find this question interesting. Is during checkout the only time we have to talk to students about their books/reading? No! As librarians we can talk to kids about the books they're reading in the halls, in the gym, and in the parking lot! We always find a way to build that relationship with our students in front of or behind the circ desk.
However, after going to self-checkout I found that I was able to do a lot more reading advisory when I was freed from the circulation desk and roaming the shelves along with them. When I have a whole class in the library I’m in the shelves right along with them asking them what they’re looking for, what genre do they like, what was the last book they enjoyed, and yes, even some classroom management! Being in the stacks with them asking them about their reading preferences allows me to be able to lead them to their next great read! When I’m in the shelves with them as they look for a book I can randomly pick up a book and do a quick drive-by booktalk. I know, not the best of name for a styel of booktalk but that’s how I see it in my head!
When I don’t have a whole class and it’s just a student walk-in to check-in/out a book my desk is at the circ desk right next to the check-in station. As the student walks in to check-in their book I’ll ask them about it. “Did you like it?” “Did you read it all or abandon it?” “If you liked it you should really get the next book in the series.” Or, “All of the books that author writes are great!” Or, “If you really like that one then you should really read this other book.” I truly believe my connection to students, relationship building with them, and my reading advisory has not at all been lost or jeopardized being a self checkout library now. As a matter of fact, I truly believe my book peddling skills and reading advisory has increased because I’m able to be with them while they search for a book.
Did you just make it easier to never get an assistant again? I have a hard time with this question. I would do anything to get my assistant back but, sadly, I know they're just not coming back and me waiting behind the circ desk for them to come back does me and my students no good. I need to do what I see is more important for my students. Am I giving the powers that be justification to delete my job and get rid of me because now I've automated the checkout procedures? I would argue that I am much more than just a checkout clerk and my abilities to promote the right books to the right student and promoting reading is much more important than my ability to scan a book.
It was also a game changer for me when Follett Destiny came out with an iPad app that I use while I'm in the shelves. If students are at the self checkout and something is wrong with their account, they’ll know by the error message I’ve programmed it to make, they can come to me in the shelves and I’ll talk to them about their overdue book and override the error and check them out with my iPad. It's a really quick process and easy app that allows me to be anywhere in the library to assist them with their checkout needs.
However, I will say it does work. For those that say it shouldn't be done, I'm here to say, but it really can be done! It can be done, from the itty-bitty 1st grader to the teen, self checkout can be done in your library. I've seen it. I've used it. I've lived with it in both the elementary and middle school library and I LIKE IT!