We’ve made a number of changes at the Central Library this year, some of which include the way we do business. Two of these big changes are the move to self-service holds and self-service checkout.
Here are some FAQs to help explain why we’ve made these changes, and how they will affect Library users.
How do you keep patrons from checking out other people’s holds?
Our computer system will only allow holds to be checked-out to the Library accounts with which they were placed. This means that in order to check out your holds using the self-service machines, you will have to have your Library card.
Can I check out holds for my wife, child or boyfriend?
Yes, but only if you have that person’s Library card.
What do I do if I can’t find my Library card?
You can get a replacement card for $2 at any Library location.
If I know my Library card number, can I type it in by hand at the self-serve checkout terminals?
Why did Central make the change to self-service holds?
Self-service holds have become standard in the Arlington Library branches over the last 3 years, starting with the new Shirlington Branch in 2007. We started moving to self-serve because it’s more efficient and reduces patron wait time for check-out. Self-service is also a growing trend in libraries across the country, and many of our patrons requested it.
Why is Central changing to self-service checkout?
Self Service checkout is a growing trend in library systems across the country, because it allows staff to focus on multiple areas of Library business. Self-service checkout has been in place since the openings of the new Shirlington branch (2007), the Plaza branch (2007) and the new Westover branch (2009).
How do I pay my fines? Does this mean that there will be no staff at Central Circulation to help me?
Absolutely not – along with 6 self-checkout terminals, we have one staffed terminal for paying fines, issuing and renewing Library cards, and other customer service issues.
How does self-service affect Library staff? Will jobs be cut?
These changes do not affect Library staff levels. But utilizing self-service does allow our staff to get more work done.
Are all the Library locations going to get self-service checkout?
Three other locations already offer this service: Plaza, Shirlington and Westover branches. We plan to expand this service to Aurora Hills, Cherrydale, and Columbia Pike in the coming months.
if only one real person is on the desk what happened to the other people that use to be on those self check stations. there must have been quite a staff reduction.
The Librarians says
Anonymous-The technology of self-service allows our staff to focus more on other circulation tasks: checking-in returns and processing holds, getting carts ready for shelving, and helping patrons over the phone.
Self check and self hold retrievals are great. Thanks
Love the new self-service for holds! Great change,
Is there a way to pay fines online?
The Librarians says
Our current system doesn't allow us to take online fine payments, but we are hoping to offer that option soon. We'll definitely let you know when online payments do become available.
Shelley Wade says
At Aurora Hills, Columbia Pike and presumably other Branches, checking-in returns, processing holds and getting carts ready for shelving are often done by volunteers, since those jobs require nothing more than the physical ability to lift books and knowledge of the alphabet. Last year many of the ‘lower’ paid part-time Library employees were fired. Instead of being used for menial circulation duties, wouldn’t it be better to have the remaining Professional Librarians sent to Branches to prevent their one day closure [something that is NOT happening in Alexandria, Fairfax or DC: check their websites]? There is a tiny spot at the bottom of Central’s main website in the ‘Support Your Library’ column marked ‘volunteers’. Perhaps a big splashy call for volunteers top and center would work better, and we could avoid being the worst Library system in the metropolitan area, as is about to happen July 1.
Library User says
Arlington is the worst library according to who? Arlington has one of the better selections on books and charges less fees for things like holds and late fees. And the only library with online services I have experienced that are on par with Arlington is DC, and there system is new and set up the same.If I only had one complaint about about Arlington it is that with the self service system they need to put pockets in there book for holding the return date receipts, or put the date stamps next to the computers so you have a easy way to remember when your books are due.
I really like the self-service holds. I've used it in other library systems–speeds up book check-outs.
The self-service kiosks do not accept my library card, whereas the ones at the main circulation desk will read it.It's an older card (#128 when Arlington started issuing the red cards with the bar code) and cardboard rather than plastic.Being a retired historian, I hate to give it up.
We are all aware of budget constraints on municipalities, and have been warned of cuts in services. It is obvious here that this inconvenience will not save any taxpayer money and that the same number of personnel will be doing fewer tasks. It is very disconcerting to learn time and time again that public jobs on every government level are not performing in line with the private sector. (actually those of us who pay their salaries.)On the surface this appears like a tax-saving measure, but in actuality, it is not. It is just more waste and lack of efficiency factored into the system.
Is it possible to send more frequent reminders about books and particularly DVDs about to be overdue, now that date-due stamps seem to have been thrown out. I also borrow items from DC, and their computer system sends DAILY reminders as due dates loom and when items become overdue. With $1 a day fines for DVDs, it would be nice to get an overdue reminder as soon as the item is overdue, not 3-4 days later. This is one place where the DC computer system performs better.
It seems to me the Library self-serve checkout stations may serve as a way to cut staff but how long will it take to make up for the cost and maintenance of the new equipment? I went with my grand children and found at checkout that the self serve stations had been implemented at Central Library – ever try to check out 20 books with a 3 and 5 year old helping?
At the self-check stands, it would be very helpful to have a supply of pens/pencils with which one can mark the due date on the back of the book. You get only one receipt when you check out multiple books, and the little slips of paper can get lost. Besides, I find the slips a waste of paper. It's a much more effective reminder to have the due date marked on the book.
Could the web page manager please fix the typo at the top of the page? Surely librarians should know the difference between "affect" and "effect"!
I think this was a terrible idea – not surprised at the self-involved yuppies in this area who like it because it's "faster" (God forbid anything should require actual human contact & conversation). One of the best things about checking out books since I was little, and which I've passed on to my children, is the opportunity to chat with the librarian about our selections & maybe they would have other recommendations based on what we liked. It's depressing that these little rituals that contribute to the richness of our lives are slowly being vacuumed out of them. Interesting that funding was found for the glitzy Arts Center in Rosslyn (which will always be a pig no matter how much lipstick is put on it) but our libraries, nature centers & planetarium have to fight for every dime they need. I HATE losing the librarians. I don't care if they're still there (which I don't really believe), I want them out talking to the public & instilling a life-long love of books in our kids.
The Librarians says
Anonymous-Thanks for catching the typo – sadly, some of us are dyslexic, and depend on spellcheck to catch our mistakes (that would be me).
Also: as the commenter with the grandchildren said, self-service can actually take much LONGER than librarian assisted checkout. I saw an older couple the other day who had been directed to a self-serve machine who were unable to figure it out. No real librarian was available to help them – there was one woman at the desk who seemed to be unaware of anything approaching customer service requirements in a job – and they didn't seem to hear advice from those of us on the line (only 2). The atmosphere at the check-out desk has already gone from pleasant hum and bustle to soul-sucking deadness. BRING BACK OUR LIBRARIANS!!!
I have to agree, I don't care very much for the forced self-service checkout. I liked having the option to do self-service, which was nice if I was by myself, had only a couple of things, or the line was long. My situation on Saturday was I was holding a baby, pushing her stroller, wrangling a five year old and had about 15 books to check out. It was not great news to hear I had to check out my own books, and the woman behind the counter was pretty crabby when I asked for help (that I obviously needed). I love the library and I love to bring my kids, but this is not going to be the best deal for people like me. I hope you're training the counter staff to be helpful (and polite) when people obviously need help. I agree with an earlier comment about "faster" service, speeding through the library is hardly ever my priority. Also my son will miss the stickers he used to get at checkout, that was a nice touch that will be missed.
I have to address this question: "How does self-service affect Library staff? Will jobs be cut?" The answer posted above is misleading. "These changes do not affect Library staff levels." This is technically true, as no staff has been laid off because of the self-check machines, but fewer staff members now work at time. This means wages have been cut for temporary, part-time staff (who get paid hourly) because there are fewer working hours to go around. The County Board cut the library budget for these staff members by 50%. These workers remain on the payroll (hence the "staff level" is the same), but unless they are scheduled to come in, they are not actually working or getting paid."But utilizing self-service does allow our staff to get more work done." This implies that the same number of people are working at a time as in the past, just doing different tasks. This is untrue. Circulation staff are doing "more work" because there are fewer of them on the clock at once. It would be physically impossible, however, for two people to do what four or five had been doing in the past. The self-check machines are being used to pick up the slack.
The Librarians says
The comment posted by "The Snot-Nosed Kid" at 3:02 pm has been rejected based on our comment moderation policy.
I've used self check-out whenever it was convenient in Arlington and Fairfax County libraries for years. I don't mind if the system moves mostly to self check-out. But it would be helpful if you could have one person monitoring the self check-out at all times, to assist patrons who are unfamiliar with the system or have a baby in arms, etc. This is standard in grocery stores that have self check-out terminals and seems reasonable since you have 6 self check-out terminals. It could be a volunteer, as long as there is someone there at all times.
The Librarians says
To the retired historian with the old-style Library card that does not work at the self check machines -It's possible that the bar code on your Library card is too faded for the self check scanners to read. If you take your card to the customer service desk, and explain the problem, the staff there can figure out why it's not scanning.
I have to agree with the other moms (and those observing elderly folks), mandatory self-checkout really poses a hardship of the kind that the young, fit, childless people who dominate this area would never see (thus, why would they ever volunteer? Us moms have enough volunteering to do with our limited time).
I'm an inveterate library user, Shirlington branch. I love the self-checkout system, BUT WHY HAVE YOU REMOVED THE HAND STAMPERS WITH WHICH YOU COULD STAMP THE RETURN DATE ON THE BOOK? The electronic checkout receipts get lost, and they're a waste of paper! Having the option to stamp the book was wonderful, and suddenly it's gone. Why? The librarians don't seem to know.
Public Information says
Hello Mary,Because there's no way to guarantee at self-check that the date stampers are set correctly (kids love to tinker with such gadgets), pencils are available for writing the due date on the item's long white sticker. As to not wanting the due-date receipt offered at the end of a transaction, simply press "no" when the screen asks if you want the printout.
If I loose a book how much money will i have to pay for it?