Good value for money or “caveat emptor!”: self‐issue revisited

Pages36-40
Publication Date01 Jan 1997
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb040624
AuthorPeter Ketley
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Good value
for
money
or "caveat emptor!":
self-issue revisited
by Peter Ketley, Head
of
Readers'
Services, Bradford University Library
Bradford University Library was the first
academic
library in
the
United
Kingdom
to
offer a
self-issue facility to
its
users.
This
article updates VINE 92 (September 1993)
by
tracing the development
of
the self-issue
facility
at
Bradford University Library during
the
last
three
years.
It
considers the possible
implications for libraries
and
trends
for
future
development.
Introduction
This article deliberately focuses
on the
develop-
ment
of
self-issue within
the
general framework
of
self-service
for
the reason that libraries have been
self-service,
to
some extent, from
the
time when
books left the care of the armarius
for
the open
lectern (albeit chained).
The term 'self-service' originates from
the
world
of retailing,
to
distinguish stores where
the
cus-
tomer provides
the
service rather than
the
store
whose residual function
is to
take
the
money.
The
current debate
on
"self-service libraries" normally
implies
a
stricter definition of the term
and
encom-
passes self-reservations, self-renewals, self-issue
and,
to a
lesser extent, self-return.
Self-reservation
and
self-renewal systems
are now
generally commonplace
and are
fairly
unproblematic
for
the librarians
and for
users:
self-
issue,
on the
other hand, presents both with
challenges.
This article will trace
the
development of the
self-
issue facility
at
Bradford University Library during
the last three years
and
will then consider
the
evaluation
and
possible implications
for
libraries.
It will conclude
by
considering possible trends
for
future development.
Bradford University Library was
the
first academic
library
in the
United Kingdom
to
offer
a
self-issue
facility
to its
users, commencing
the
service
in
May 1992(1).
It is
important
to be
aware that
the
book theft detection system used
by the
Library
operates
in a
bypass mode
and the
process
of self-
issue does
not
therefore need
to
include
the
desensitising
of
tattle-tapes.
Self-issue was offered
as
an
option
on the
OPAC main menu screen
and
required
the
borrower to type
in the
borrower
number,
the
PIN,
and the
accession numbers of the
books.
The
process
is
subject
to all
of the checks
on book
and
borrower that occur during
a
front
desk transaction.
Our conclusion after
one
year
of
operation
was
that
the take-up rate (18% of all issues)
was low,
especially when compared with
the
only available
comparator (Tilburg University Library where
self-
issue counted
for
90%
of
all
issues). Assessments
of success
and
failure will
be
considered later.
The
reaction
at the
time
was a
resolution
to
continue
the experiment,
to
intensify
the
promotion
of self-
issue
to
users,
to
equip some of the OPAC
terminals with scanners,
to
investigate
a
more
visible
and
more user-friendly workstation,
and to
increase
the
range
of
loan stock amenable
to self-
issue
by
barcoding periodicals. What progress
has
been made?
The development
of
self-issue
at Bradford University, 1994
to
date
The library climate
in
which self-issue operates
affects user response
in two
ways: firstly, through
the degree
to
which users
are
exposed
to and
involved with computer technology;
and
secondly,
through
the
degree
to
which users
are
expected
to
do things
for
themselves. During the last three
years users have become increasingly obliged
to
use 'information technology'
to
access
the re-
sources required
by the
learning process.
Use of
personal computers
to
access CD-ROMs
and
networked services, such
as
BIDS
and the
Internet,
is now widespread. Many users have now devel-
oped
a
computer literacy, moving
on
from
acquiring rudimentary word processing skills
to
performing more sophisticated tasks
often this
is complemented
by
use of a personal computer
in
the home.
The
result of this
has
been
to
make more
users familiar
and
confident
in
their
use
of such
equipment. But,
at
this point,
it is
important
to
36
VINE 105

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