Funding isn’t often given to libraries specifically for circulation. It’s just not as sexy as a new learning center or a collection of new books.
Sometimes I like to dream though that some rich woman decides to throw a couple of million at my library, and the only stipulation is that is has to improve the circulation processes somehow … [before you say anything I do have other dreams than this one, but they’re on my X rated site]
So some of my posts for #blogeverydayinjune are going to be about the exciting new circulation toys out there, that I haven’t got yet, but I’d love too.
Today’s featured toy is the idea of a circulation jukebox, cause it could dispense items 24/7 and never requires people to do reshelving.
MediaBank has a DVD jukebox as does BiblioTecha; and there’s also a bookbank called LibraMate.
How could I use this? High use items in a 24/7 lab? My personal favourite, a mobile library van visiting student events such as music gigs to loan out items. Perhaps just to pick up holds after hours? I want one so I can give every 5th borrower a chocolate frog as well as their item! Or Lucky Dip borrowing – press the button and you may get *one of the items with the most holds on it that month, or *a book that hasn’t been borrowed for over 10 years!
A related must have (if I could just think of a work justification) was demonstrated at the recent VALA conference. Bibliotecha is offering a series of lockers that can be set to open for a particular patron card (RFID cards needed though). Sadly I’m as excited as a teenage girl offered dinner with Justin what’s his name, by this toy – “I SO want it”.
I could use this for picking up holds, allowing lecturers to browse the shelves after a class and then leave recommended reading items for students in a particular subject; or a game whereby you can scan your barcode each day and then one day a door opens and you get a surprise book!
Hmmm. Must stop dreaming and go off and write some real work now.
This month one of our major libraries lift is being upgraded. This should be a time of great jubilation and celebration for the lending staff, as the lift is about 15 years old, struggles to level out at floors [for non circ people getting trolleys over the bump is painful], and in an inverse reaction to the TARDIS takes about 20 years to go up 2 floors.
However …. this upgrade is going to take 3 months. It’s happening during 2 active months of 2nd Sem. The returns desk is on Level 3. The books live on shelves on Level 5. There are no other lifts in the building. There’s already been a few manual handling issues at this branch for loans staff.
So I’ve been enjoying troubleshooting with my colleagues solutions for over a month. Unfortunately I cannot say that we will be instilling any of the fun options.
- Apparently there’s not enough time to give this to our Engineering 3rd year students as a real life work problem that needs a mechanical solution created.
- Building our own weight loaded balance solution (giant set of scales in the stair well with 2 empty buckets either side, that swing upstairs as people load up books on each floor ) is labelled a Health & Safety hazard by some visionless qualified ergonomists.
- The giant slippy slide made with cheap black plastic down the stairwell only works for bringing books downstairs not upstairs. Pulling them up tied on string is a bit labour intensive.
- Asking all students to return their items to the floor they borrowed from (self check in) was viable and is going to be an option, however can only be a backup as we can’t set up the technology to refuse items not housed on particular floors. Over engineered towards customer service, that’s the sort of self service technology we buy!
- Moving all the items down to the entry floor was foiled not through lack of space, more by the fact we only had it refurbished as a student space 5 months ago and after a year of no access the students actually deserve to use it for at least a little bit longer. [Why you ask didn’t we have the lift refurbished during the same time, well apparently our Property services section could explain that, they just won’t].
So … da da da … the final solution is whacking up some temporary shelving for returned items on the entrance level, then paying furniture movers to carry them up 2 floors at the end of each week!
Today I am going to talk about the automated returns system (ARS) we installed in our Eastern Resource Centre this year.
First up I have to say this is a small machine – only 5 bins.
It’s not the sexy 10 bin TechLogic sorter at Brisbane Public Library. I’m one of those sad types that cheers myself up by watching the UltraSort live on movie!
It’s not a robot retriever (that’s ASRS – Automated Storage and Retrieval System) like we hear about overseas (and may see soon at Macquarie).
It’s not even the flying monkeys that girlwithshoes teased me about and I secretly believe could still happen one day.
The 5 bin machine offers 4 bins for your sort choice (we have chosen different location codes), and 1 bin for any and ALL exceptions that do not fit those 4 sort categories. We purchased a hybrid system that can handle RFID or barcodes, and only have bins at present. However the QLS model we selected does have a trolley that can be purchased – just note that you have to buy a “docking station” [costs more than the trolley] as well for it to work. TechLogic is the only other model which offers a returns direct to trolley model at present. It’s trolley is far superior to the elongated QLS model (difficult to maneuver I think and only 1 shelf) but also more expensive …
We bought the QLS machine but there are also options from 3M, TechLogic, Bibliotecha and numerous others for every sec after this blog is posted!
The staff are happy with it so far, and we have these “learning experiences” to share with other libraries going down this track:
- Students want to use these machines. Don’t let them put up the face plate untill you’re REALLY ready to take books. Students will break through paper signs, remove plastic signs and generally try and ram books into this enticing returns machine : – )
- Whatever the machine itself can do remember that the SIP2 connection still limits what you can do as they only transmit certain data
eg we currently can’t refuse items from other locations, or items from another floor
- If you haven’t got RFID yet buy a hybrid system so you can migrate as technology develops. Our system is running books by barcode at present, alongside dvds by RDID tags. Eventually we can migrate books across to RFID from barcodes in our own time, with it appearing seamless to library borrowers.
I’m sure the Librarian of the ERC, much more disciplined than me, will eventually organise me to give a paper on this somewhere. I’ll co-operate as long as I’m allowed to name it the same as I did the working group – Automated Returns Sorter Experience. So the working group could get Kiss my ARSe coffee mugs!
Today I can actually talk about something we have done at Melb Uni.
photo of dvd with RFID tags
As with most lending returns and shelving areas, our staff have a LOT of manual handling to do. That used to include opening every DVD that was returned to see if the borrower had remembered to put the right dvd in the case! Annoying; plus intensive use of wrists in a repetitive strain type movement. Our ERC library holds the Media Collection, and come Friday they function as the campus VideoEzy (but free!), so LOTS of opening and closing of dvds.
On top of that we had a security problem with many of our prize DVDs disappearing throughout the year. Initially we considered those cases where you have to lock/un-lock manually, but that is just another form of manual handling. So the acquisition of a new automated returns sorter (more on that in a forthcoming post) allowed us more options.
We purchased an automated returns sorter that can accept either barcodes or RFID tags. Then we put each DVD into a 3M lockable case, with a RFID D4 (big white square) on the case, and a CD8 (white round ‘doughnut’ on centre) on the actual DVD. These 2 tags are programmed on the 3M RFID conversion station/pad as a “set”.
Now when you check in a DVD the automated returns sorter checks
– is this the RIGHT CASE and DVD for the set? If not it pops it back out to the borrower with a little message “Problem with media item. Check that correct disc is in case“.
– does this case have a DVD in it all? If not it pops back out to the borrower again. The same message is used for both scenarios “Problem with media item. Check that correct disc is in case”.
If you have managed to return your dvd in the right case, it accepts it, returns it and pops it in a bin. Then our staff still have to manually swipe them through the relocking mechanism (it’s magnetic and currently set right on the side of the DVD returns bin) but no further checking is required, onto a trolley and back upstairs.
VERY EXCITING – well for lending and manual handling warriors like me anyway : – )