A customer self-borrowing with the library's loan machine.
Library loan machine

About the independence of libraries

23.3.2020 12:17
Self-activity improves library services.

We live in extraordinary times. Our generation's first real screen seat since the Great Depression of the early 1990s. It is possible that after the crisis, a new, better time will begin. The possibility is vanishingly small, a person does not learn, but it is there.

Once the pandemic is under control, libraries will also open their doors again. Also self-help libraries. Self-help libraries, or as I prefer to say: partially self-help libraries. There is no fully independent library, because no library can function without professional staff.

Self-help library, despite its somewhat misleading name, is a great invention. Thanks to its independence, the library can be open from morning to night, every day of the year. It means that during some of the opening hours, customers serve themselves. The self-service library is called what it is, because it sounds better than a self-service library...  

Being self-employed requires the customer to be active, social and learn new things. Learning to be independent shouldn't be impossible for anyone. The aim is to make self-service libraries as accessible as possible, so that all library users are in an equal tax position even during self-service hours. It's not easy, but that's the goal.

A self-help library is not created by snapping your fingers. Rajapatsa's library's independence required extensive renovation, Vuoksenniska's a completely new library. The planning of the main library's independence is at a fast pace and it will require a lot of space changes.

In order for the library to become partially autonomous, it is necessary to acquire a lot of technology that is not necessarily available in a traditional library. Access control, borrowing, returning and the possibility of searching for information must be organized in such a way that the customer can do them himself, even if the staff is not there. Customers must be taught to act independently, staff must be trained to master the necessary technology and guide customers. Now, for example, a lot of changes have to be made in the main library, even just to the order of the shelves, so that camera surveillance becomes possible. Unfortunately, camera surveillance is necessary, experience has shown that.

The self-help library does not work without staff, not for free. A library without staff is just a book warehouse. Even in self-service libraries, the library staff handles the acquisition and removal of material, content description, putting it in order for borrowing, shelving, processing reservations, and maintenance of self-service technology. The staff strives to ensure that the books are in their right places and the technology works when the customer visits the library at seven in the morning on their way to work or before nine at the time of the evening news. Cleaning and maintenance of the premises must also be taken care of. We library professionals and professionals from other fields who support our work are still needed, despite being self-employed.

There is no need to fear self-help libraries. They may slightly reduce service times, but accessibility improves. One day we may yet see libraries that are open 24/7 all year round. Self-help technology is already easy to use, it will surely become even easier with all kinds of new technology. I believe that it won't be long before returns and loans are registered at the same time a customer walks in or out of the library door.

mika. kahkonenatimatra.fi (mika[dot]kahkonen[at]imatra[dot]fi)
Tel: 020 617 6602