On My Mind: Live ... at Your Local Library

By Weinstein, Tatiana | American Libraries, March 2005 | Go to article overview

On My Mind: Live ... at Your Local Library


Weinstein, Tatiana, American Libraries


Have you used one yet? Those self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, I mean. I food-shop weekly, and I rarely see a person in one of those lanes. Maybe it's because they're just so convenient and quick that people using them are but a blur to most shoppers. Or could it be that most people are just wary of going it alone?

When I do see a shopper at the self-checkout register, I almost always notice a grocery store employee assisting that shopper with the self checkout. This seems like a contradiction, doesn't it? I'm sure that once you get the hang of it, self checkout is a piece of cake; but what if that cake is missing a price sticker or the barcode doesn't scan? Hmm ... Guess you'd have to call in an actual person to help.

The human touch

As a public librarian, I regularly keep an eye on other public-service facilities, be they post offices, gas stations, banks, restaurants, or grocery stores. I like to see how customer service in other fields relates to the patron service we provide at my library. We all want to make our facilities more customer-friendly and more inviting, as well as expeditious.

And I do enjoy the convenience of the coin-operated stamp machine at the post office and the ability to pay for my gasoline with a credit card at the pump. However, I am also relieved and thankful every time there is a human being present--for my questions, for my safety, and, frankly, for my societal need to be around other humans.

Libraries are buzzing about self checkout. And I am not completely against this for those patrons who prefer to go it alone. But I do not support self checkout as the primary way of checking out a book.

Library administrators continually push "customer service" to their staffs. Having a live staff available for those who may have questions, who may like a recommendation, or who may just like to say "hello" to a library employee spells customer service in my book. …

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