RFID Self Checkout At Toronto Public Library’s Barbara Frum Branch
You probably remember my mentions of my return to the Toronto Public Library (and using it) as of late. I walked in to the Barbara Frum branch of the Toronto Public Library, the branch I have used since the early 90s when they opened it at Bathurst and Lawrence, the other day to pick up my books and was stunned to see how drastically the front area inside had changed. Gone was the giant desk that had dominated the central area in front of the entrance. In its place were some recommended books on tables sort of like you see in a book store. There were ‘shoplifter detectors’ at all the entry/exit doors which they put in to replace the turnstiles that we encountered in the old set up where we were funneled around the front desk – east side in and west side out.
To my right (with my back facing the doors) I saw 2 computer terminals and to my left I saw the desk that used to be the place where there would only be one librarian on occasion for the kids’ section was fully staffed. In writing this post tonight I found this post from late October on the “Barbara Frum District Blog” talking about how the branch was going to be closed until mid November due to renovations and these must have been them. What was the point of all these renovations? They installed RFID scanning computers in the library (the two terminals mentioned earlier as well as a few others in the library) so patrons could self checkout their books. I took a picture of the entire self checkout computer terminal kiosk because I knew this was something I would have to share with all y’all. You can even see my ancient red and white “North York Public Library” card on top of my wallet on the bottom left of the picture.
I read on a different blog that when they first put these systems in place in other libraries the signage directing people towards them was terrible and the instructions for use of the system were also horrible. While I didn’t see any signs directing me to these computers as self checkout computers I had zero trouble finding them especially given the words “Express Check-Out” clearly written on the screen in a large font. The instructions for use on the screen were also pretty self explanatory as was the little white piece of paper in a stand to the right of the screen explaining its use which I have also pictured below. The library’s instructional sign even tells you that you can do your books in batches – something I didn’t realize until the second time I used the system but that’s because I didn’t have any trouble using the system without reading them.
But on the note of signage one thing I did find really lacking and what confused me quite a bit until I asked a librarian was the whereabouts of the book return. Used to be in the old setup of the library you’d just leave your books on the front desk which dominated the entrance area before you walked in to the library. Now, with that desk gone, I didn’t know what to do but figured I should probably leave them with the librarians at this now staffed other desk. When I went over and put the books down, I looked at the gentleman behind the counter and said that I was returning them at which point he directed me to a book return slot on the complete opposite side of the entryway area which I probably never would have seen had it not been pointed out to me.
As I started the above thoughts I was going to say there should be a sign directing people towards it but the more I think about this the more I realize it isn’t necessary. Why? Because since the early 90s we patrons of this branch have dropped off our books with the librarians at the front desk. Therefore, our natural inclination will be to drop off our books with a librarian at a desk in the front and when we get there we can be told where to bring the books. It is only a 50 or 60 foot walk, no big deal, just mildly annoying the first time.