Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Patron Power: 3M Introduces Automated Self-Check-Out System

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Patron Power: 3M Introduces Automated Self-Check-Out System

Article excerpt

The library world has been waiting for a reliable, easy-to-use, secure patron self-check-out system since automated circulation systems became a reality in the past decade.

In an effort to answer this need, 3M has unveiled its new SelfCheck System to the U.S. market.

How the System Works

For years, library security and automated circulation systems were independent of each other, and both were operated by librarians. But now the two unite -- and, in the process, put materials check-out into the hands of the patron.

Officially introduced in January to the U.S. library community, the SelfCheck System is "step two" in the company's total materials flow management approach for libraries. The first step is the installation of a Library Security System (see Figure 1). All materials are protected with a Tattle-Tape brand Security Strip, and a Detection Unit is installed at the library exit.

More than twenty years ago, 3M pioneered the concept of electronic protection of library materials. Today, thousands of libraries around the world have adopted these security systems to protect their collections.

That protection is expanded with the introduction of the 3M SelfCheck System (see Figure 2), which is designed to work with the 3M Library Security Systems and interfaces with most auto circulation systems.

Emulating the same procedures librarians use to charge out materials, the SelfCheck System reads the bar code on a patron's library card when he places the card in the unit. The system then accesses the user's individual database. If he is an approved patron, screen graphics appear that explain how to position the first item for bar code scanning (see Figure 3 on page 32).

The system then automatically checks the item out, desensitizes the Tattle-Tape Security Strip, and prints out a date-due slip.

If patrons are not approved borrowers or there is some other problem or information to convey -- such as fines owed or materials on hold -- the screen spells out the appropriate message and directs patrons to the front desk.

The screen prompts on the color monitor have been designed to guide even first-time users through check-out with no intervention from library staff.

Even though patrons fully control the check-out process, can renew and, potentially, check in materials, library security is not compromised when the system is used.

Security is effected in a number of ways, the first of which is the built-in Multiple Book Detection feature that prevents patrons from checking out more than one item on the same bar code.

Until now, a number of selfcheck-out systems weren't advanced enough to detect multiple items during the check-out transaction. Security was a real concern. The SelfCheck System is capable of detecting the presence of more than one security strip on the platform and ensures that only the one item being scanned is processed.

Other internal security controls in the SelfCheck System include a raster laser scanner (which increases the "read rate" for out-of-place bar codes) and a series of sensitive photocells that eliminate item substitutions. The system is also programmed to only desensitize items that are approved by the host circulation system.

Library staff can add Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) to the transaction process to help prevent misuse of lost or stolen library cards.

Getting Started

The SelfCheck System can be installed wherever floor traffic demands. Ideally, stations can be strategically located throughout the library. Resource staff could be decentralized from one main circulation desk and the circulation desk itself could be reduced in size or relocated, thereby freeing up library space.

For the SelfCheck System to function, the library must have an automated circulation system and a 3M Library Security System already in place. …

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