• 13Aug

    Bournemouth-LibraryI went to Bournemouth library yesterday and it has all changed since my last visit.  Gone is the counter with people ready to help and check your books, instead I’m faced by a wall of machines standing sentinel and cold!  As I walk in there is an elderly man with a walking stick at one machine, struggling to check his books out – I would have gone over to help (nobody else was around) if I knew what to do myself at the time.

    I headed to the top floor to look at CDs and music DVDs.  These are now all in plastic (eco-friendly – I doubt it?) boxes which suit their new system and admittedly make a lot less clatter as you browse.  Having armed myself with 4 CDs and 2 DVDs I went and put them on the usual desk, not realising I have to check these out myself now too.  A guy working at a computer behind the desk pointed me to the machine and said all I needed was my library card and PIN number.  Well I didn’t have a PIN so he looked that up for me…. another 4 digit number to remember, argghh.  Is it really necessary to have a PIN for this service?  The machine was quite self explanatory – first you scan in your library card, then type in your PIN and then put one item at a time in the tray area. It only made one error where I had to put the CD back underneath for it to read again.  When checking an item out it tells you if there is a fee and then you tap “YES” to accept it.  The little padlock beside the item then turns from red to green and shows as unlocked.

    With my little stash of music I owed £5.80 and there is apparently no facility to accept notes or credit cards in the machine, only coins.  Here I became confused, I don’t regularly carry that much in coin but had notes, so how to pay?  I cleared the screen and went back to the chap at the computer.  He first remarked disapprovingly that I’d already cleared the screen, on this occasion he’d do the payment for me at the till then… but he also said that no, the computer doesn’t accept notes?  I was left in the dark as to how avoid the same problem in future or whether it was possible to pay on bringing items back as he wasn’t interested in explaining anything!  He also seemed unsure whether my payment at the till had been registered and told me to keep the receipt!!

    I went down in the lift, paying cursory glance to the gadget beside the lift with a sign behind saying items must be unlocked here if not already done so before leaving the library – in my head the fact the lock on the machine screen changed to green-unlocked meant I’d done this and also the fact this was by the lift seemed like a last minute  “if you haven’t already, you need to do here” thing.  Luckily I got out a CD and studied the case, sure enough the red lock was showing (are elderly people really going to get all this or is it me who’s dense!).  I had to go back and swipe each item quite firmly through this contraption to physically unlock the case.   Nothing is now stamped of course, so how easy it would be to forget which day to take them all back by unless you write in yourself… and the people who take the trouble to do that (if there is even a place in the case to do so) are the people less likely to forget anyway!  I could end up owing more money and still being none the wiser how to pay.

    I came out of the library really annoyed that all the personal service has gone from there too.  Yes there was an enquiries desk right over the other side of the main part of the library but there was nobody there are the time.  I mostly now know what I’m doing, can (hopefully!) remember my PIN, am fit and able to type, juggle items, understand computer screens and swipe CDs etc, but I think it is a lot to ask of the elderly, less able members of our community who seem to be increasingly forgotten in this “everyone for themselves”, do-it-yourself society.  Is it just me?  They could have self inking stamps so you can stamp items yourself and know when they are due back (one for 1 week music loans, 1 for 3 week book loans).  At the very least there should be a help buzzer beside the machines, or one member of staff keeping an eye out for people needing help.  I note they pride themselves on wheelchair access, lifts and low library counters but these machines go completely against that ethic – you could not use from a wheelchair.

One Response

  • Grace Tierney Says:

    I had a similar experience in my local library (in Ireland) earlier this summer. Yes, I could manage it (after a few false starts) but I don’t see how it’s going to help less tech-saavy users, those with sight issues, or those that need to juggle bags and perhaps a walking stick. And yes, those readers have every right to use the library too. I usually have two small (button pressing manic) children with me when using the machines and that doesn’t help either.

    Part of the joy of using a library is often the interaction at checkout – commenting on books, suggesting similar authors, and that’s gone now too.

    More recently, I managed (accidentally) to check out 2 books without registering them against a card. Library system thought they were still “on shelf” – I could have kept them!

    Progress for progress’ sake I think. And yet I still can’t check out ebooks from my library, only digital audio books?!