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Electronic Registration

Grand Rapids Public Library

Problem Statement

As with any worthwhile endeavor, providing exceptional patron service takes time. When the specific processes of registering new patrons and replacing lost library cards demanded more time than staff or patrons had to spare, we asked ourselves, “Is all of this really necessary?” A combination of critical process analysis, staff creativity, and a recent migration to an open-source ILS permitted the opportune response: “Not any more.”


When a new account is created using Electronic Registration, the patron's information is entered directly into the ILS from the identification provided. This data is displayed on the screen of an LCD pad for the patron's review and approval. A second screen provides the library's terms of use, as well as an area for the patron to submit an electronic signature, which is stored as an encrypted data string. When replacing a lost library card, the patron account is updated as needed, and a new signature is collected.

This method eliminates the need for staff to be idle while the patron completes a paper application. It also significantly reduces the incidence of errors associated with interpreting handwritten information.


This project's primary objective of time-savings during patron registration was immediately realized upon its implementation in December 2010. Transaction time per registration has since been reduced by 50% without sacrificing any core component of the process. There have been several considerable ancillary benefits:
  • By eliminating the use of paper applications, our carbon footprint is reduced along with supply costs.
  • Sensitive patron information is now stored in a single, technologically-secure location.
  • Staff time and effort previously spent reviewing, filing, and maintaining paper applications can be directed elsewhere within the organization.
  • Our patrons have enjoyed a noticeable reduction in overall waiting time at the Circulation/Registration desk, regardless of transaction type.

As a result, we continue to provide our patrons with service that is “slow-cooker quality in a microwave world”.