Self service library counters - I hate 'em

(115 Posts)
SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:09:36

Ok, if I was on my own, pushed for time, then yes, they are useful.

But, trying to return, renew and borrow books for me and my Ds on separate cards, while v active toddler tries to feed coins in/make a break for the door, and then make sure the correct books go on the shelf or bin, it's unecessary stress, it's a fucker.

Meanwhile there are 2 librarians 2 feet away from me doing bugger all having a chat.

(Dons coat)

ImpOfDarkness Fri 22-Nov-13 17:16:11

I hate 'em too. All part of the dismantling of everyday social interaction.

Yanbu - I hate them too. And I hate the fact that a librarian who is standing around refuses to serve me and makes me go to the machine instead. Do they not realise that the machines will be justification for getting rid of librarians soon enough? Grrrrrr.

I once overheard one librarian saying to another - "Nobody realises how stressful our job is. Sometimes we have to serve a customer and show somebody how to use the internet, at the same time." I was tempted to invite her to come and see bottom group Yr 8 on a Friday afternoon, if she wanted to know about stress. Grrrr again. smile

Mcnorton Fri 22-Nov-13 17:17:01

I feel your pain. (Full disclosure) I'm in charge of these in a Uni library so not usually one where people bring kids in. As a public library user myself I'm not keen. I avoid the shop ones too as standing daydreaming in a queue and having someone ring in my goods is often the only bit of down-time I get all day!

And I hate the fact that I walked up seven flights of stairs in the new Birmingham library, nearly collapsing from light headedness - and there were corridors and corridors without a single book, or book poster, or anything at all to do with reading. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Sorry OP - you've set me off here!

Mcnorton Fri 22-Nov-13 17:19:53

Remus, it IS more of a stressful job than people think, although that library staff member's example doesn't sound very stressful! hmm I think some people get jobs in libraries thinking it will be quiet and you can read the books. Not these days. They get a rude awakening! grin

Arabesque1 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:21:03

I hate them. Our lovely cosy local library with nice friendly staff is now an impersonal warehouse with kids tearing around and machines checking your books in and out and hardly a staff member to be seen. I never go there anymore. It just depresses me. Libraries used to be a big part of the community, especially for elderly people who often used to know the library staff by name and would get books recommended to them or sit and relax and have a free read of the paper. Nowadays, if you want a seat they're all occupied with sprawling kids and teenagers texting or playing games on their ipads and the noise from the smaller children is unbelievable. It's more like a play area than a library.

Mcnorton Fri 22-Nov-13 17:21:04

PS I wouldn't claim being a librarian is more stressful than being a teacher though, no way!


I quite like ours being self-service.


HearMyRoar Fri 22-Nov-13 17:26:31

I quite like them. Queuing with dd is a pain but the machines are always free at our library. Plus I just like machines more then people.

I am a librarian. My job is outrageously stressful. I do the work of four full-timers in three days a week. The librarians have an easy life brigade can go away.

Anyway, back to the OP. In some libraries, self-issue has been found to free up time for other work, such as service development, maintaining stock, more time for shelving to allow you to access material.

McNorton - I couldn't sympathise with her at all with that example, I'm afraid. smile

Arabesque1 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:30:07

But libraries shouldn't be just about checking in and out books. You often hear adults saying that when they were younger they were introduced to such and such a writer by the local librarian and, as I said,older people often really enjoy a friendly chat with the library staff. I hate to see libraries being turned into cold impersonal spaces with little or no social interaction.

And MM - I'm not saying anybody has an easy life: just that one complaint, of one person, at one moment, seemed pretty ridiculous to me.

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:31:43

I'm sure a few years ago librarian came out top in a survey of jobs people would most like to do.

If you feel that the self-checkout desks are hard to handle, especially with a child, then just ask at the main desk. I'm sure they will be happy to help. Our library staff are lovely and many of them are volunteers.

PeppiNephrine Fri 22-Nov-13 17:33:23

Go over to the librarians and ask for assistance. Is it that hard?

TheWitTank Fri 22-Nov-13 17:34:08

I love them! But then my two are older (6,8) so enjoy putting their own books through the scanner and pressing the buttons on the screen. Plus it allows me to be unsociable, which I quite like sometimes!

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:36:11

Manchester mummy - just curious what would you have done if you had seen me stuggling with this in your library today? I appreciate you have a busy job, but imagine you were just standing there chatting to a colleague?

Peppi - in ours, the librarians just direct people to the machine.

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:38:06

I have asked before. And been told off for asking!

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:38:46

Agree that for older kids they must be great

Arabesque1 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:39:33

Soon, no one will ever have to talk to another human being. We withdraw our cash from our accounts by machine, swipe our own groceries, check in and out our own library books. No doubt they'll invent a machine soon that will allow us to do our own dental work and diagnose our own illnesses so doctors and dentists don't have to waste their time dealing with actual patients.

PeppiNephrine Fri 22-Nov-13 17:42:41

If they won't help people who are struggling, I suggest they are not doing their job properly. I'd point that out to them.

DorisHerod Fri 22-Nov-13 17:45:13

Yes I hate them too. Our local library was closed for 3 months for a refurbishment. Ha ha. It reopened with a garish paint job, half the number of books, and these horrible machines. The machines hardly work and the older folk or people with young children are stumped because you can't put all the book on the counter at once or the machine gets confused. You have to hold the pile in your arms well away from the machine whilst scanning one book at a time. And about half the books haven't yet been barcoded so they don't scan and you have to queue up anyway to see the library assistant (no qualified librarians anymore), who also has to man the tourist information point.

All the books in the main area are displayed a la waterstones...big tables of pot boilers all of the shopping and shagging kind.

Behind it is a big display of keep calm and read books type tat that is for sale. Book marks, scarves, tatty ornaments, beads, teapots etc. WTF?

The rest of the downstairs is Crime. Upstairs is non fiction (self help books wall to wall, with a random selection of DIY manuals and Kirstie whatsits wallpaper your own cushion covers revamp type books).

It's bloody dreadful. Good libraries as one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. And our local one really isn't. It's a poor reflection of TV based themes and tie ins.

Sorry but rant rant rant. I complain everytime I go in there.

welovetopsyandtim Fri 22-Nov-13 17:48:08


Arabesque1 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:53:14

I couldn't agree more Doris. A fortune was spent doing up our perfectly nice library and now it is horrible. It's basically been taken over by kids who love being able to tear up and down the length of the building with no one stopping them (including their ignorant parents), and the books are spaced out all over the place giving a really cold half empty vibe to the library. The assistants are at a big desk away from the general library area, or upstairs in glass fronted offices. The whole thing is awful.

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 17:56:33

doris your post is so perfect I am tempted to print it off and frame it.

Doris your local machines sound awful. I'd assumed that all libraries had ones like the ones in Essex - where you just dump the armful of books on the the table in front of the machine and it scans them all together.

DorisHerod Fri 22-Nov-13 18:03:28

Thank you sinister. That's the nicest thing that anyone has said to me today! It makes me so mad I can hardly express it. Good libraries are our children's birthright like health care and education.

Sinister - without question I would have helped. I don't stand around chatting to colleagues because I'm management andlots of them hate me grin.

I always help. And never send anyone to a machine who has asked for assistance.

FrauMoose Fri 22-Nov-13 18:09:03

So what do any people in or around Birmingham think of its new Library? There's already been one comment, I think...

MM - please come and work in Birmingham, so you can keep me away from the evil machines. smile

Birmingham library has a few really amazing bits - the roof top garden, obvs the Shakespeare room, but on the whole I think it's very soulless. And the cafe is astonishingly expensive - £3 for a bit of flapjack stuff!!!

Morebiscuitsplease Fri 22-Nov-13 18:18:26

I felt really sad to read your post. We've had machines in our library for two years. We always offer to help people especially whose with young children. Staff have been reduced (fortunately by natural wastage) but without the machines libraries would close sad They are no substitute for a person, yet it does free us to help people with enquiries of which we have many. We can't be doing a totally bad job as one gent today said we were the best library he visits. I know much of my time is spent finding books for people, helping mums find books for their children and organising children's activities as we'll as essential admin such as putting books away!!! Talk to your librarian, join the users committee....write to head of service. They need to know how you feel.

carlajean Fri 22-Nov-13 18:20:44

Our's stacks books face forwardforward. So annoying.

HearMyRoar Fri 22-Nov-13 18:31:57

Doris your post is eerily familiar but like it is written from a different dimension. I genuinely think we could be talking about the same library. My local was redone with all the things you describe but I think it is super.

Because the staff are not stuck behind a desk all day scanning books they can be around the library available to help out and offer assistance when you need it.

Our machines only scan one book at a time but they have a little table on one side and a book trolley on the other so you dump your pile on the table. Wizz them through the scanner and then pop them on the trolley.

They have a shop of tat but some of it is ok , I got dd a little shopping bag for a couple of quid she adores, and they have some nice cards. Generally I just walk past it. There is also a pretty good cafe that does a reasonable coffee and cake and the nice lady who works there even remembers dd's name.

I am a long time lover of libraries and spent much of my childhood hanging out in the local one where I grew up. It was a lovely place, happy to put up with a small child wandering around for hours choosing age inappropriate books and probably causing a bother. I even have one of their book shelves in my livingroom. I love books but I can also appreciate the other things my library does. It does loads of stuff for kids, gigs, events, courses, film nights. I think its great.

DorisHerod Fri 22-Nov-13 18:37:06

Ours has no cafe. And no film nights or events, and certainly not lots of stuff for kids sadly....

FreeWee Fri 22-Nov-13 18:38:16

I'm afraid I love them. I think they're so quick and clever particularly returning them. But then I just borrow on DDs card so no faffing. Also our cards have a barcode to scan which takes no time.

FreeWee Fri 22-Nov-13 18:41:39

Ours have a big flat square hole where you scan your card then put all your books in at once. The names pop up one by one on the screen then you can ask for a receipt or not. Then to return you don't even need your card. Place all in at once then bung them on the left or right cart depending on the arrow. Dead easy! Love it!

cannotfuckingbelievethis Fri 22-Nov-13 18:43:44

Are these only in England ? Not seen or heard of them North of the Border....Would be sorry to see any of the library staff I've met be replaced. They're all very helpful and cheery.

ExcuseTypos Fri 22-Nov-13 18:46:00

I volunteer in a library. We help people all the time with the machines. They only have to ask and often we will ask people if they are ok, if they look a bit bewildered.

I've also never seen a paid librarian refusing to help anyone. I think you should tell management if they are being so unhelpful OP. it's their job to help you!

lottiegarbanzo Fri 22-Nov-13 18:50:05

Hmm, yes, toddler is not sensible enough to scan her own books (does try) but is big enough to open the automatic doors to outside.

Last week I held on to her ankle as she lay on the floor wriggling (or was that struggling?) while I scanned and bagged her books.

Rooble Fri 22-Nov-13 18:54:30

We've got them - I quite liked them as they freed up the librarians' time for proper enquiries, help choosing books etc.
But now the council (having spent a load of money installing the machines) has no money to run the library, so is closing it down.

(I don't blame the Council, but the bloody Government).

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 22-Nov-13 20:25:24

RemusLupin Birmingham City Library is possibly the ugliest building in the Universe (or is that Selfridges at the Bullring?).

Hideous lighting, too much empty space, too few apparent books. And who honestly thought that a massive rank of Haynes Manuals was the first thing anyone wanted to see at the top of the first escalator?

I won't use the machines or the supermarket ones either. Just my little personal campaign to keep human interaction alive and well.

Lilymaid Fri 22-Nov-13 20:30:13

We have self service in our village library. When the cuts came there was no money to pay for a part time assistant but capital was available to purchase the self service machines. Poor old people who use the library and for whom a chat with the assistant was a highlight of their day.

Middle - exactly. Whole areas in which there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that it's a library. I was really disappointed - although it did have a v good selection of History books, so I'll give it that.

Marrow Fri 22-Nov-13 20:33:59

YANBU. I have stopped using our library since they got the self service machine. I had more fines in a few months than I have ever had in total before. I got fed up of the machines not scanning accurately.

I rant about the machines in Sainsbo's too and only use them if a worker does it for me, which completely defeats the object of the machines.

Rage, rage against, etc.

Bowlersarm Fri 22-Nov-13 20:39:43

I love the new system. So much easier.

DiscoBiscuits Fri 22-Nov-13 21:00:02

I work in libraries and I don't like the self serve machines. I see that they help free up some time but in reality talking to people is a huge part of my job. I work more in community libraries and a chat with us may be the first social interaction that person has had all day. We know our community and can pick up on stuff that isn't quite right (Some staff members once managed to alert the police to one of our elderly and confused members being groomed by a known sex offender from a local bail hostel and save her from being his next victim). We don't and should't just scan books but not scanning books may mean we don't get the chance to properly interact with our members and our community at large.
We seem to have so many policies in place that are not fully thought through. It makes me very frustrated
And I would never refuse to help anyone that asked for help. Ever.

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 22-Nov-13 22:02:42

I kind of want to visit Birmingham library now, like a disaster tourist! I live nowhere near though...

nocarsgo Fri 22-Nov-13 22:05:35

The "librarians" standing around chatting won't be librarians. They'll be unqualified library assistants, or WORSE, volunteers <spit>

<hoists bosom>

Yeah, I'm a librarian. And we already are being made redundant left, right and centre.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 22-Nov-13 22:17:57

Sinister : have a look online, there are lots of photos and videos of the Birmingham Library which I'm not clever enough to do links for There's a couple of roof gardens so you can go outside and look at more ugly buildings.

We have a good library here, paid and helpful staff, lots of events, and so on. It's very supported by the community and will hopefully remain so.

PaperMover Fri 22-Nov-13 22:18:52

I work in a library; we help people with the self service machines. We sort of hover and try not to pounce on people asking if the need help. It was easier when we had a desk. The RFID machines make our jobs much more difficult; books not returned correctly, reserves going out for issue, items issued that shouldn't be. They are the In thing though and our managers want them. I like it when I get to help someone, rather than trying to get a blasted machine to work.

If you are not happy about something that happens in a library please write an email to the person in charge. Our managers really do want to know how things work/don't work for library users .

PaperMover Fri 22-Nov-13 22:22:23

nocarago ! Meow! We were probably talking about you...

specialsubject Fri 22-Nov-13 22:46:13

why didn't you go up to the staffed desk?

HumpdayPlus Fri 22-Nov-13 22:54:02

It's not the fault of the librarians (and those wouldn't have been librarians, btw, they'd have been library assistants or <shudder> volunteers), it's the fault of those holding the purse strings. Librarians in the public library service are few and far between and getting to be fewer.

If you want better library services, write to your local council and tell them so (or join a campaign group like this

I think it's disgusting how badly funded library service are, but your council has a statutory obligation to fund them. Of course, as with many serviced funded by your local authority, they'll give them as little funding as they think they can get away with.

ArabellaBeaumaris Fri 22-Nov-13 22:55:19

I hate them. They don't always register the book & my mum took 8 books back for me & didn't realise this (don't have them in her library) so managed to not actually scan them but put them in the bin thing. So they are still loaned to me, I managed to find 4 of them on the shelves but haven't found the 4 picture books somewhere in their un-alphabetised shelves. So I will be searching for them tomorrow & paying off the £16.50 fine hmm

ArabellaBeaumaris Fri 22-Nov-13 22:56:19

HumpDayPlus you also need to write to central government who have cut the budget of local councils by 45%.

weirdbird Fri 22-Nov-13 23:17:14

I hate them, I also hate the refits that all the libraries had in our area (surrey) that got rid of most of the books, large empty spaces with books ala waterstones like someone else mentioned.

I wanted to find a book by an author, there were almost none on the shelf, couldn't find what I was looking for and ended up looking on these stands. The author I had been looking for had a book in each one!

The whole point of a library layout is so you can find a book by an author you want to read.
It is completely different to a shop were they have lots of copies of the same title so they can be in more than one place.

I had to stop going to ours while my kids were small, the check out machines were right next to the main doors, which are automatic and lead onto a busy main road, I just could not keep an eye on what my children were doing safely and check books out. The children's section is far away from the door but I couldn't take books out and watch 3 small children too big for a buggy but too small to not wander off, or suddenly decide to make a run for the door.

The previous desk was central to the library and I used to get the children involved with helping hand the books over and could engage with them.

I did ask if I could still use the desk but was told no, I pointed out that I could not hold my children s hands or watch what they were doing and use the machine, would be happy to use the machine if they would stop my children wandering out the library, I got a look, and a that is not what we are here for.

I really do think it put a lot of parents with lots of small children off. It just felt really unsafe.

HumpdayPlus Fri 22-Nov-13 23:43:15

<waves to weird bird>
Yep, sounds awful. I'll bet no-one took any account of those things when they were designing new library layout. Strongly recommend writing letter so they can get it better next time.

If they're investing money, that's brilliant, but they need to be spending it right. Tell them when they get it wrong.

nocarsgo Sat 23-Nov-13 00:06:35

I wasn't being bitchy, but my post is missing some tongue in cheek < hoists bosom > which I tried and failed to insert. The odd spacing in my post? That was it.

That rather ruined my attempt at facetiousness wink

nocarsgo Sat 23-Nov-13 00:08:34


I knew that asterisks got deleted but you can't use a square bracket?

I inserted a "hoists bosom" to show I was joking, but because MN treats certain symbols as code I looked like a twat, twice over grin

nennypops Sat 23-Nov-13 00:13:33

Must admit to being amongst the likers, mainly because I don't have to queue and it's so quick. Our library is quite small, and the librarians are still very much in evidence and very helpful when necessary.

HumpdayPlus Sat 23-Nov-13 00:14:52


I saw your bosom being hoisted. Twice! I knew you were being facetious, because I understand literary devices like facetiousness and <stuff in brackets> because of libraries.

nocarsgo Sat 23-Nov-13 00:19:06

Ah, I use the app. Bloody thing.

HumpdayPlus Sat 23-Nov-13 00:21:44

Oh yes, don't use that. The mobile site is far better than the app. <knows these things, due to libraries>

SinisterBuggyMonth Sat 23-Nov-13 00:36:00

Just had a google image search, I think I might have an actual phobia now of Birmingham library exterior. Good God! What's with the hoops? It actually hurts my eyes to look at it! It's like a magic eye picture, that doesn't do anything.

DoctorRobert Sat 23-Nov-13 00:48:13

I like them! quick and easy to use. if I need assistance then there are still always librarians around to help. one always comes over to say hello to dd, which is lovely - presumably she wouldn't be able to do that if she were stuck behind a desk issuing books.

AlpacaPicnic Sat 23-Nov-13 00:49:39

And I've just lost my job in a library because there isn't enough money to pay me anymore... I only run rhyme time, story time, summer reading challenge and all the activities for children. The activities that get the most amount of people through the door.

The people you are complaining to? They are just as bitter and pissed off about all this as you. But they may well be in the same position as me, and have simply lost the will to keep fighting. The people who make the decisions are never around to field the complaints, never available to be the one helping the customer and never available to take the abuse that gets levelled at us day after day for installing the damned machines in the first place.

I've had customers spit in my face. I've had people snatch their library cards out of my hand so hard it's made me bleed because their nails have scratched me. I've even witnessed a colleague taken away in an ambulance after being assaulted. But nothing has made me hate my job more than the introduction of those damned self service machines.

I leave my job on Christmas Eve. Happy fucking Christmas to me.

HumpdayPlus Sat 23-Nov-13 00:51:44

thanks alpaca

AlpacaPicnic Sat 23-Nov-13 00:52:51

Sorry, didn't mean to go on a bitter rant...

I actually don't mind the machines themselves... Ours are pretty high tech and efficient. What I don't like is that our customers have no choice to use them. In supermarkets you can choose to go self service or choose to queue up. In our library it's self serve or nothing. We used to get weekly emails telling us what percentage of 'transactions' were self serve and the target was over 95%...

AlpacaPicnic Sat 23-Nov-13 00:53:24

Thank you hump day <ashamed of rant>

HumpdayPlus Sat 23-Nov-13 00:55:13

No, don't be ashamed! I'm right there with you, but my rant is a hypothetical one about how Victorians managed to fund libraries and somehow we can't, whereas your rant is real and very personal.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Sat 23-Nov-13 08:36:31

Sinister it's hideous, isn't it? What's really sad is that you could probably fund a zillion librarians for what the architect was paid.

Upstairs there are reading desks along the front wall - like a very long bar with bar stools if that makes sense. You can look out at the rest of Birmingham through all those circles hmm

VivaLeBeaver Sat 23-Nov-13 08:38:27

I refuse to use them.

Our library is now in staffed. There is only the computer which for some reason never allows me to take a book out.

I just don't bother now. Take the books home without booking them out to me. Take them back when I'm done. Least I don't have to worry about fines anymore.

coralanne Sat 23-Nov-13 08:47:51

I love themblush. The library I go to you just scan the bar code and it prints out a receipt. No problem.

Eldest DGD has been scanning her own books since she was 18 months old so I can't see how it would be too difficult.

valiumredhead Sat 23-Nov-13 09:14:26

I love them and I hate self service things as a rule. I particularly like the receipt you get and it's very easy of I can dogrin

I especially like being able to renew books online - it has saved me a small fortune blush.
And reserving books online is great too.

Retropear Sat 23-Nov-13 09:26:17

Oh god I hate them too!

There are 5 in our family and the dc beg to do their own,not great on a Sat morning with a queue out of the door.You can feel the death stares.Hate it when a book won't swipe too.

The saddest thing is seeing OAPs struggle with them.sad

Retropear Sat 23-Nov-13 09:29:23

And yes machines don't help kids to choose books or encourage reading,make suggestions.....


reallysayingsomething Sat 23-Nov-13 09:43:55

Weirdbird. I am Surrey too. Hate the awful machines. Using the library less and less as a result. My local library has a staffed main desk. The librarians are now usually dealing with bus passes or other council admin. However you have to collect your reservations here, so queue up get your book and then have to go over to the other side of the library to use the ss machine. The librarian told me that they are judged on the amount of issue's on the machines. Target is ludicrous. 95% shock
What idiot thought double queuing was customer serving. I feel so sorry for those with younger children. And the old and vulnerable. Tis crap.

I don't mind them in our library. You do need to double check it has counted all the books in the slot. I regularly talk to the librarians who are actually working in the library, I ask for recommendations, locations of books and stuff, or just have a chat.

It seems to work for me. I love libraries.

Our reservations are on a shelf by the check out. You just pick it up (little ticket with your name on it) and check out as normal.

really - our libraries put reservations on shelves, alphabetically by the name of the borrower. You just collect it from the shelf and check it out as usual. Maybe you could suggest it to your library.

IfNotNowThenWhen Sat 23-Nov-13 09:57:20

I HATE them, and I hate the way, when Iwalk over to the counter with my books, the librarian says "would you like to use the self service check out?" and I say "No Thank You" and then there is a raised eyebrow, and a slightly narked look.
For Fucks sake. If I wanted to work the checkout at Morrissons I would bloody work there, and get the staff discount. If I wanted to be an library assistant, then I would at the very least want to do the little stampy thing!
When I was broke and alone with a baby in a place where I knew almost noone, going to the library/supermarket/charity shop was often he only interaction with another adult I would have all day.
These interactions are important, and especially for old people.
I once caused no end of sniggering and eye rolling when I went to a recurring hospital appointment and was directed back out of reception, where I usually checked in, down the hall, to the SELF check in.
I declined (raised eyebrows, narky look). On the way out I passed a very frail old man standing in front of the self check in looking totally bewildered and like he was going to cry. (I did stop to help him).
They are evil. They are everything that is wrong with the modern world. It's like one of those 50's bodysnatcher type movies where we are being subtly taken over by machines and everyone just blindly does what they are told like zombies.
<I have realised I feel quite strongly about this...!>

valiumredhead Sat 23-Nov-13 10:05:56

Are they different types of machines in different libraries? Here you swipe your card and put the book any where vaguely near the screen and it registers and that is it. Any OAPs I've seen including my mum love using them as they're so easy!

Retropear Sat 23-Nov-13 10:11:21

I've seen partially sited oaps struggle and other clearly non computer literate oaps getting in a tizzy.

Oaps vary my inlaws are in their 80s and hate them,my mother who is 70 and computer literate is not so bothered

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Sat 23-Nov-13 10:11:54

IfNot I completely agree with you. It's the gradual erosion of human interaction which worries me most. As you and other posters have said, some people rely on supermarket staff, library staff and so on for their only company.

I know a lady who's a supermarket checkout person - she says that they have one old lady who comes in twice a day as otherwise she wouldn't see anyone or have a conversation. She ekes out her pension on small purchases to justify her visits sad sad sad

My aunt used to have a cheery man who came to read the electricity meter. He was only there a couple of times a year, but always had time for a chat. Now we have to send in a reading online. Makes me so cross.

In defence of our local library, we do have self check out machines, but also real living human beings who are helpful and generally friendly

I work in a library that has self service and we always have staff on hand to help those struggling with the machines. We'va had them for a couple of years now so most of our regulars have got used to them and kids love using them (and are far better at it than the adults!)

Some of your examples are just bad customer service which I don't think has anything to do with the actual machines... Not that i'm trying to defend them too much they are a PITA sometimes but it does also free us up a bit to get stuff back on the shelves and contary to some comments above I also spend a fair part of each day finding/recommending books especially in the childrens library.

FrauMoose Sat 23-Nov-13 10:42:36

The library I work in does not yet have machines for scanning borrowed and returned books. But there is a computer which serves as a kiosk for booking to use the other PCs.

Some people don't wish to use the kiosk, or be taught how to use it. It is a relatively straightforward process, and anyone who is literate enough to use the computers should be able to manage it. I can understand that some people value the interaction with library staff. However by coming and having a long chat/monologue about, 'Um I'd like to use Number 6. Isn't that available? Oh what a shame. I want an hour. No,maybe 45 minutes would be enough. Actually make it an hour. No I don't want to wait another 15 minutes till one's available fora a full hour. Are you sure one isn't available for an hour now? What do you mean Number 7 isn't free. There's nobody sitting there now.' And in the meantime the queues are building up, and the people who need more specialised help are having to wait.

weirdbird Sat 23-Nov-13 10:52:43

From reading this thread it would appear there are lots of different types of machines, the ones we have, you have to choose the borrow option on screen, then scan your card, then open each book and scan the bar code, which you cannot do one handed. Then you choose to finish. You have to do this for every card, so with 5 of us it does take a while.
It is fine if you have older children and yes they love to scan their own now.
But when they were all toddlers it was a PITA, cause you had to use both hands and you had to pay attention to what the screen was telling you.
I can see the logic of having them right next to the exit, but it just made it so stressful, whereas before then going to the library with them had been one of my favourite parts of the week.

IfNotNowThenWhen Sat 23-Nov-13 11:01:53

I really feel for AlpacaPicnic, who is getting laid off from her Library job. This is the other thing-libraries have had their services cut so visciously it almost seems personal..
Even before the cuts, library jobs were being de-skilled and de valued (my bestest friend was a library assistant for years, doing all the kids events, and was massively underpaid for the job she did).
The more people use the self service machines, the more councils can justify cutting staff hours even more, because self serve is what we "want".

PaperMover Sat 23-Nov-13 19:10:23

nocarsgo yes, well, you'd better watch it, that's all...

A self service machine can't stop a student self servicing himself. They can't clean up when someone comes on and poos behind the paperbacks.

I now work in a Uni library, we've just had a wave of redundancies and staff replaced by machines and student on a low grade. If someone asks us to issue a book to them we have show them how to use the self service. If we don't we get told off ( yes told off!)

Arabesque1 Mon 25-Nov-13 12:03:12

If the idea behind the machines was genuinely to free up staff to be more hands on and available to the public, then that would be fair enough. But certainly in my library it has been to remove them from the general library space and make it clear that they're there to do more of the admin. work. Also, the installation of the machines seems to have gone hand in hand, in some cases, with a refurbishment of the library which has generally made it more impersonal and soulless with lots of empty space and fancy seating, and the books laid out in a manner that is at best off putting and at worst confusing. The whole air of 'community' has disappeared from a lot of libraries which is very sad, particularly for the many elderly people who enjoyed spending time in a warm, quiet, calm place with friendly assistants to chat to and nice comfy seats to sit in and read the paper.

Thurlow Mon 25-Nov-13 12:12:42

I don't mind them but they are hard to use with a curious toddler in tow.

However, as another librarian, I just wanted to agree that we are being royally shat on as a profession. There have been so many redundancies in every area (public, academic, private sector) that there is hardly any career progression available at all. This is a sector where you have to have a postgraduate qualification, so we've all sunk 4-5 years at uni and a lot of money into becoming a librarian. Now we have very little to show for it, and so few people understand the skills and knowledge of information management, teaching, training etc involved in our job that we don't even get a look in for jobs where our skills would transfer over quite well.

I used to love my job and my career, but frankly it sucks right now.

PaperMover Mon 25-Nov-13 13:51:00

I agree most Librarians will have a postgraduate qualification, but not all. Some will have entered the profession with a degree in library/info studies; some will have a variety of qualifications ranging from none to Phd and will have qualified via Certification, "on the job". Some people have the job description of "librarian" but have no professional qualification.

I don't think the professional body has been enough help to its members in a rapidly changing information heavy world. Library staff in general get a very bad press, maybe not quite as bad as teachers mind ;).

Wallison Mon 25-Nov-13 13:56:20

I hate the self service things because they don't stamp the book with the return date. All you get is a bit of paper which I promptly lose. What use is that? Also agree with posters who think libraries are too noisy these days - it's difficult to concentrate on what you're doing when there's a bunch of semi-feral kids running around chewing on books etc.

valiumredhead Tue 26-Nov-13 13:01:16

Actual I have completely changed my mind about self service tills! Had coffee this morning with a friend of mine who is over 65 and had said she won't go to the library now as she's not great about 'new things.'sad

Bring back the stampy librariansgrin

valiumredhead Tue 26-Nov-13 13:03:21

The only way I remember what date to remember to return the books is of if I put a remember in my phone.

The irony of needing to use one device to cope with another device is not lost on me...hmm grin

Wilding Tue 26-Nov-13 14:07:46

I love the machines... sorry. Takes two seconds to take out a huge pile of books - you don't even have to scan them or put them down, just wave them in the general direction of the machine and you're done. And I get an email a couple of days before they're due back as a reminder.

remus we have these machines in Edinburgh libraries.

I don't particularly like them but it saves spending hours queuing up at the desk - the librarians, or library assistants, I'm not sure - seem to double up as council advisors and are always sitting in long consultations with people waving letters about housing benefit. It's odd.

Sorry, that should have been directed at ryangoslingspants, not remus.

StingingNettle Tue 26-Nov-13 14:59:51

I work in a library and we have to encourage borrowers to use the machines or scan books through the machines on their behalf. It's how our active usage is recorded - if I issue 10 books through the machine and 10 at the counter, only the 10 at the machine show in our figures. Its bonkers, we are a fairly busy library and only have one machine - so lots of queuing - we are well aware of the customers looking over at us and wondering why the hell we aren't serving them. We need all the book issues we can get - its the figure they base the need for the libary on - if we start issuing at the counter our book issue would fall significantly possibly resulting in reduced hours or worse still closure.
We have to hit a 90% RFID (self-service) target, if we don't we are named and shamed county wide and severly bollocked. I've started explaining this to the customers (- going totally against the company "efficency drive" drivel that we are supposed spout) it's mad and only going to get worse.

cornflakegirl Tue 26-Nov-13 15:16:02

I'm quite happy to use the machines. My sons like them because you can change the backgrounds to space or jungle. They're straightforward to use. The email reminders of return dates and the ability to renew and reserve books on-line are fantastic.

The library staff do loads of stuff that adds value to me, like finding all the books that I've reserved, changing the book displays so that I notice and borrow different books, administering the summer reading scheme. I don't particularly need them to scan books for me. Plus the staff at our library are always happy to help if you have a problem with the machines.

The council has a decreasing budget, and the library has already had its hours reduced. I'd rather the machines than even fewer hours of library opening.

I'd like to still have the personal touch of someone scanning the books, with the chance to get to know the staff and share a love of books, but I know that I can't have everything.

DorisHerod Tue 26-Nov-13 16:03:24

Stinging nettle- that is just so dreadful. What an awful system. I wonder if you work where I live...

Just a thought - it's a lot easier now to check out books about embarrassing medical conditions. Or slightly um, racy novels. :-D Not that I would do such a thing. And especially not on my dc's card so I don't get late fines. :-D

ohmeohmyforgotlogin Tue 26-Nov-13 16:15:49

Not bothered by self serve but am annoyed that our libraries now have hot picks which means every newish, decent book to read is only available one week loan non renewable. Chances of getting it read and returned in that time if I am not on holiday minimal so risk fines so don't borrow. Neither does anyone else as they are all piled high on several tables.

bassetfeet Tue 26-Nov-13 16:31:30

I adored my library when the children were younger . Now I fumble with the self service thingy and look stupid . I like a chat smile

One very stressed year I called in to collect a reserved book after shopping to lug home on foot . The staff greeted me with the option of sherry or orange juice and mince pie ....out their own pockets for those lonely or elderly visiting that day . I have never forgotten how lovely the library was that day for those on their own and facing a long holiday break.

bassetfeet Tue 26-Nov-13 16:33:05

Doh Christmas Eve !

TheRaniOfYawn Tue 26-Nov-13 19:48:01

I like the machines. They are easy for even tiny children to use, I can return very overdue books workout having to get too embarrassed and there are always staff around at the information desk/shelving books/ helping out as well as running the library.

ohmeohmy we have similar to your 'hot picks' where I work. Trick is to pop in, return it and then take it out again. You've effectively renewed it for another week then. Depends how often you can visit of course...

ohmeohmyforgotlogin Tue 26-Nov-13 20:10:22

Thanks for the tip. Thought there might be some way the machine would know that is what you're doing

HumpdayPlus Tue 26-Nov-13 20:19:45

stingingnettle, in your example the 10 books you staff scan out aren't counted, how do they know that you're meeting a 90% target? confused They must be counting the staff-scanned ones, or you would unfailingly have a 100% self-scan rate.

Sounds like someone's telling the staff porkies in order to get you all to comply.

But I'll say again, if you don't like how your local library service is being run, say so. Write to your council, write to your MP, write to your paper. Explain to them why it doesn't work for you.

TabbyM Wed 27-Nov-13 11:59:50

Our central city library (north of the border) has them and there are plans to change branches too. As a fool that did library studies I hate them as they are replacing staff and as a user I find that staff hover to help in a very annoying way as the machines don't always scan. When possible I like to go to a branch to get books stamped out as I always lose the receipts and can't remember due dates. My childhood library had lovely staff who would recommend books and give you a heads up if a favourite author had a new book (pre internet!) but has been rebuilt and now seems very small. The only good thing in recent years is the ability to renew online IMHO. I avoid self pay tills as well!

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