Libraries: 10 Ways To Improve Self-Checkout Results
By Gretchen Freeman / February 5, 2016 / Categories: #SCO

[This is the first in a series of posts encouraging libraries to “Expect More” from their technologies and to squeeze all the value they deserve from every technology they implement.]

Certainly self-checkout is no longer a new technology for most libraries — in fact, libraries were on the leading edge of training patrons for self-services in society at large (think grocery stores and airports). But having implemented self-checkout, libraries tend to become complacent about its ongoing return on investment. How can we increase adoption of self-checkout above 90% and what happens when we do? Here are ten suggestions to improve the results of self-checkout.

1.) Locate self-checkout stations where patrons would naturally use them — on the circulation desk, near the entrance, next to holds pick-up shelves and in the children’s area. And identify them with clear signage and minimal clutter.

2.) Make sure there are enough self-checkout stations (as many as you can afford) to handle traffic during library peak use times to ensure that self-checkout is the patron’s speediest option.

3.) Design the appropriate self-checkout experience for each area. Place a cluster of stations where a single staff member can train and assist patrons to be successful; set up kiosks in areas where patrons can be completely independent to resolve blocks and pay fines.

4.) Keep it simple. The more options and clutter on or around the screen, the longer the patron needs to navigate through a session. Watch patrons navigate to learn what needs to be easier.

5.) Improve the speed and convenience of self-checkout with RFID and the ability to stack materials on an antenna. Patrons will enthusiastically embrace self-checkout if they no longer have to figure out how to position materials for barcode scanning.

6.) Make sure that staff encourages adoption of self-checkout by inviting and coaching patrons to use it successfully. Staff should be positive and reassure patrons that using self-checkout will free them up to provide other library services.

7.) Remove as many barriers as possible to the patron’s successful checkout, such as low borrowing limits or fine/fee limits. Consider whether it really makes sense to keep patrons from library resources.

8.) Ensure that self-checkout stations are working and that they reliably disarm security tags. If patrons lose confidence in the system, it’s a steep climb to win them back again. Task staff members with regular cleaning and testing of each station and the security gates.

9.) Make payment by credit card at self-checkout the most convenient in-house option for patrons. Limit options for cash payment (it requires more equipment and staff involvement) and consider ways to motivate patrons to pay online at home.

10.) Reduce staffing at the circulation desk. At least move staff to back room tasks where they can be summoned with a call button. If the above suggestions are in place, self-checkout is working for patrons and staff should be relocated instead of waiting for patrons to check out.

Be sure to give staff regular feedback about reaching that 90%+ adoption of self-checkout and let branches know how all of them are doing on the goal. Then create a plan for shifting staff to new tasks, new positions or reallocating positions from circulation to other services. Finally, give your self-checkout vendor feedback about adoption of their solution — as well as any needed improvements.

For more information from Gretchen Freeman about how your library can improve results through Self-Checkout, email