Problem StatementWith customers checking out and checking in materials at circulation desks across our 62-library system, we had problems with providing customer service. With lengthy lines, customers would get frustrated; they simply wanted to borrow materials and go. We wanted our customers to be able to check out their materials quickly and easily, without any difficulty or hold-ups. And there was also the issue of payment: if customers had fees to pay, they had to wait even longer while our specialists resolved problems. Also, if customers didn’t receive receipts at the circulation desk, they would have no record that they had either taken out or returned an item. We needed a more efficient system to handle our check-ins and check-outs.
In May 2005, Queens Library pioneered its first personal payment system (PPS) at our Corona location. Using RFID technology (radio frequency identification), we were able to transport information from our materials to our ILS system. Using a PPS, customers could now check out their own materials, simply by placing their library card on a screen and then putting their materials by that screen. Rather than checking out materials one at a time, they could scan a whole group of materials easily. They had a record of their materials, and also could pay any fees right there, using cash or a credit card.
Since that first pilot project, Queens Library now has 41 libraries with self check-out machines. And, as we renovate our libraries, we provide these in swing spaces, too. Using RFID technology, we also have installed 19 self check-in machines throughout our libraries. Several have been installed inside the libraries, but we also have exterior self check-in, which allows customers to return their materials 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also are working on providing free-standing personal payment systems that will not only accept credit cards but also debit cards.
By using RFID technology and installing self check-out and check-in machines throughout Queens Library, we have improved our customer service. Using self check-out, customers can take out many materials at one time, without a customer service specialist having to scan each item’s barcode. Customers can also take a receipt with them, which tells them what materials they have borrowed, and when the materials are due. Furthermore, they can pay fees quickly and easily.
With self check-in, customers always have a record of what materials they have returned. This cuts back on customer disputes. Furthermore, when they can return materials anytime (with exterior machines), they conceivably can save money they would otherwise spend on fees, because they can still return materials on time. With RFID technology, Queens Library has made borrowing materials easier, faster and more efficient for our customers.