Self-Checkout—3 Different Options for Different Reasons
By Gretchen Freemen / March 25, 2016 / Categories: #SCO

When libraries decide to deploy self-checkout stations, they don’t always consider combining the options available to create the best patron experience—and highest use. Here are a few considerations to help you determine the best option for your library when choosing staff-monitored, kiosk, or desktop self-checkout for your library.

Q: What blocks will your library use to limit or restrict checkout to patrons?

A: Is there a maximum fine before checkout is blocked (typically $10)? Are there maximum item limits or item type limits? Can patrons pick up holds for someone else (depends on the ILS)? Think through how the patron at self-checkout will navigate through each block scenario. Offering payment on a kiosk, such as the Tech Logic Flex, will eliminate one of those blocks from interrupting self-checkout.

Q: If some blocks require staff intervention, how will that occur during self-checkout sessions?

A: If patrons have to leave a self-checkout station to resolve a block with a staff member elsewhere, it teaches them to avoid self-checkout. With staff-monitored stations, staff observes the progress of checkout sessions and assists to resolve blocks. The Tech Logic “Combo” station is an example of staff-monitored self-checkout where one staff member can observe 3-5 stations and assist when needed. It also delivers best use of staff time to monitor self-checkout and do other tasks at the same service desk.

Q: If resolving blocks requires interaction with the ILS, how will that occur?

A: For example, if a patron type (non-resident) is incorrect and blocks checkout, staff needs to update the patron record using the ILS software and a keyboard. A kiosk doesn’t offer either of those and the patron has to relocate to a service desk. A staff-monitored “Combo” option allows staff to access the ILS with a keyboard to update patron information efficiently.

Q: How will self-checkout support speedy pickup of hold requests?

A: Assuming that holds are self-service pickup, place one desktop self-checkout on a counter or stack end beside shelved hold requests. Patrons appreciate a handy self-checkout when they dash into the library to pick up a hold. A desktop station with an all-in-one PC/touch screen, receipt printer and barcode/RFID scanner provides quick access. Signage can make it clear that this “express” station is for checkouts without handling blocks or payments.

Q: How will self-checkout support the use of media security cases? 

A: Some self-checkout solutions will include a security case unlocker, the most service-oriented option for uninterrupted sessions. Alternately, place unlockers on a counter near a monitored desk but outside security gates. Cased materials checked out successfully pass through the security gates and can then be unlocked and de-cased by patrons at the counter. The least desirable option requires patrons to line up or seek out a staff member to de-case the materials after checkout. For self-checkout to succeed, choose the least intrusive method with the least staff involvement.

By combining three types of self-checkout—staff monitored, independent kiosk and Desktop “express” checkout—your library can deliver the best patron experience at the place where it’s needed.

For more information from Gretchen Freeman about how your library can improve shelf-management results, email