This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

July 28, 2005 - self-check

The Douglas County Libraries are retooling.

Why? Because the demand for our services is growing. We need to grow our ability to meet it, and there are some new tools we haven't had before.

So our retooling will begin with something called "self-check." Our first full-scale experiment will be at the Parker Library.

Right now, our very capable staff spends a lot of time doing simple tasks: scanning the barcodes on your library card and books, for instance.

Frankly, that's a ridiculous underuse of their skills. Over the years, I've learned that the people who work at our circulation desk are among the best read, most savvy library consumers you'll find.

Of course, their deep dedication to public service comes in handy when some odd circumstance comes up. Our people know the system, and can help steer you through it.

But most of the time, a lot of the process of checking out materials is purely mechanical. So here's what we want to do:

1. Put out more self-check stations. This is essential. Right now we have one public self-check stations, and three staff stations. This week, we'll have 4 public stations, and one for staff. We really CAN'T add more staff at a circulation desk -- not enough room, not enough money. A different configuration, with our staff overseeing several stations, will let us grow our capacity.

2. Get our staff out from behind that desk. This is the Big Change. The idea is that we'll not only have our people standing right there to help our patrons past the rough spots, staff will also be there to do something even more important. What's that? To help you find the materials in the first place!

3. Make checkout easier. There are all kinds of little "blocks" that might come up during checkout -- really, just notes and reminders to our staff. We're trying to whittle those down so that they don't stop people from checking things out themselves.

There are some things you can do to help us test this new system.

1. Have patience! Like every other new technology, there will be bugs and gaffs. But we'll work to get it right.

2. Please carry your library card with you. I know it can be a pain to pack one more thing in your purse or wallet. But having your library card will make things go faster and smoother.

3. Holler for help if you need it! Again, all of our staff are still around, and are eager to make this experiment go as smoothly as possible. But we're sure you'll find their help far more significant and useful out in the stacks, rather than at the circulation desk.

4. Let us know what you think. The first couple of times might be weird or awkward. But after you've tried it a few times, staff would appreciate some thoughtful feedback. Right now, we see this as one of the key ways we can handle more work with the same number of people. We're also looking, as noted above, to make more intelligent use of the skills of the very bright people who work for us.

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