Monday, December 28, 2015

Self Checkout - or why didn't I set this up sooner?

For years I've been hearing about librarians who have a self-checkout station for their students to use, and while I always thought that sounded like a good idea, I never really could get it together enough to set one up.  When I thought about it, it just didn't seem like something that would work in my space.  We only have five student workstations, and I couldn't justify commandeering one of those for checkout only. I use the computer at the circulation desk for both checkout and for my own teacher workstation, so having students check out on a computer where my work email may be up or where something I might be working on might be open, just sounded like too much of a hassle to manage. 

After having an after school coffee meet up with one of my local school library pals, and hearing that she used a self checkout system on her teacher machine that worked, I realized that I was being silly about the whole thing and just making excuses so that I didn't have to give up control.  I left our meeting with a fire lit under me and began to think about what I had available to me to use.


When our middle school went 1:1, I inherited a few Surface tablets.  The tablets are locked down pretty tight with no real way to customize them or add apps, and I haven't done much with them because it requires a lot of extra directions to get them working for our younger students. I realized that they would be perfect for creating a self-checkout and computer catalog stations. The surface tablets are very portable and small, so we are able to put them pretty much anywhere, and the kids can even carry the catalog tablets with them to the shelf to look for books if they need to.  I also had an extra scanner in the back office that we use when we're cataloging extra books that come in, so I didn't have to take the scanner from my desk - when we get backed up we can check out from the normal circulation desk computer and the Surface tablet.  (Seriously, with all this stuff available, I feel really foolish not having done this sooner).

Self checkout station in the library
Using the directions in Follett, I set up a "Checkout" patron that gives access to checkout books.  It's pretty restricted so that all they can do is checkout under this particular account. At the beginning of the day I log in to Destiny on the tablet using the "Checkout" credentials, and we're ready to go.

During their check out time, students in grades 2-5 are now able to self-serve checkout books.  Each student already has a library card that I print in Destiny using one of the standard patron reports, so all they have to do is scan their card and the school barcode.

Minor Issues

The checkout station does pose some problems for some students (just like I guess the self-checkout at the grocery store does for shoppers).  I do have to keep an eye on some classes and impulsive students who don't always stop to check to make sure their cards scanned or their books, but I would say overall there are not nearly as many mistakes as I would have expected.  I'm not super strict on allowing students tons of renewals or to checkout if they have a lost book so I do have a number of overrides per day that I have to assist students with, however, the benefits of being free from the circulation desk far outweigh the occasional override or mistaken checkout.

The Benefits

The biggest benefit of self-checkout for me is that it gets me out from behind the circulation desk, where I often feel trapped.  I no longer have to have groups that need to conference come stand by my desk while I'm scanning books in and out.  I'm actually free, for the most part to roam the library, monitor project progress, help kids troubleshoot and have meaningful conversations about work. With more focus these days on student growth goals, specifically having self-checkout frees up more of my time to collect data, make observations, give constructive feedback and monitor the growth that I was struggling to accomplish over a number of weeks.  

The place really almost runs itself at this point, and in my mind, that's not a bad situation.


  1. This sounds great! Nice use of resources! Our kids are going to love that independence:)- Amy Martin

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I have also been rather slow in providing a self-checkout service for my students but this is the week to try it! I also hope it unchains me from my desk and allows me to work with more students particularly those who struggle to find a book that suits them best. Kind regards Jill