Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > RFID Self Checkout At Toronto Public Library’s Barbara Frum Branch

RFID Self Checkout At Toronto Public Library’s Barbara Frum Branch


Barbara Frum Toronto Public Library Front 2012.01.06

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.

Barbara Frum Toronto Public Library Inside Main Floor Looking West

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.

Barbara Frum Toronto Public Library Self CheckOut RFID Counter

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.

Barbara Frum Toronto Library Self Check Out Instructions Sign

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.

  1. January 5, 2012 at 12:04 am

    yup…times are changing.

    • January 5, 2012 at 12:07 am

      Agreed, but this makes life in some ways so much easier. No longer need to worry about how many librarians are on staff – unless one of the computers goes out of order – they will always be fully staffed and be able to handle people at full capacity. I do most of my book borrowing from the library via the hold list so it will also likely increase the speed of my trips. Finally, it frees up librarians to do other things.

  2. January 5, 2012 at 1:03 am


    My home branch (Bloor Gladstone) was the first to get this system when they reopened after major renovations last year. In some ways I like it. Paying fines is a bit of a hassle, since you have to get someone’s attention and then they have to rescan your card. Thankfully that’s only occaisional.

    Raymond AKA The Funky Barrister

    • January 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Hmm a good point Raymond.
      Couple things about that though is that:

      1) In my experience society doesn’t really care if they’re making things more difficult and inconvenient for people who did something ‘wrong.’ It is, in a way, encouragement aside from the fine to not do things wrong. (I get fines all the time for overdue books so I am not trying to be all high and mighty here.)

      2) if you go to pay a fine can you then check-out books at the same desk? If so, not the biggest deal because at least you don’t have to go from one place to the other.

      I am actually heading in to the library today to pick up some more books so I will endeavor to find out the answers to the 2nd point.

    • January 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      I was just in the Barbara Frum Library and asked the staff member about your question. She said that no you can’t pay your fines from the auto-checkout and you can’t take out books from the fine paying desk. You can pay your fines via phone but she has no idea if it will be available online ever. She said we should suggest it to the library feedback system.
      Hope that answers everything!

      • January 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm


        The Layout at Bloor Gladstone is a little different than Barbara Frum. Much better in my opinion. The Return slots are outside or in between the front door and inner entrance door. Then once you enter on your left is a long counter with 3 stations then a shorter desk with 2 stations. The first on the counter is a staff station (which isn’t always manned), then there are two self checkout stations. The first station on the desk is a self checkout,while the last station is a librarian station. Since the staff station isn’t always manned, this is why paying fines is a bit of a hassle.


  3. January 6, 2012 at 12:35 am

    I can’t believe how tempting you make going to a library while I’m on winter break AWAY from school, without any mandatory readings to do. I haven’t been to BF since May, but I can see it’s gone through some dramatic changes since then that I hadn’t heard of, so thanks for sharing!

    • January 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Sarah, thanks for the comment and you’re most welcome for sharing.
      For me, reading has always been a relaxing activity. When no one is forcing me to read something I quite enjoy reading. In fact, there are a number of books I have read in recent years which most schools have you read when you are younger and I am happy that mine didn’t because I think I enjoyed reading them more this way, without being forced to and being required to analyze every aspect of every paragraph.

  4. Christine Jackson
    January 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Not everyone who works in a hospital is a doctor, and not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. The main floor desk that you said was fully staffed would most likely have had one librarian and two clerical staff. The librarian’s job is mainly to answer reference questions, while the clerical staff handle library card renewals, collecting money for fines and helping customers to use the new self checkout.

    • January 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      A very fair point Christine. However, I would assume that back in the old format the center desk would have been similarly staffed so it probably makes no difference in terms of the desk placement.

  1. January 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm
  2. November 16, 2015 at 9:28 pm

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