Pondering Self-Checkout


I’ve been interested in the idea of implementing a self-checkout system for the students for quite some time. I know there are lots of elementary librarians who do this very successfully. It’s definitely something that is born out of the necessity of getting away from the circulation desk. As the only staff member in the library, I often feel like I am tied to the library and to the desk. I have awesome volunteers and student helpers that make it less painful, but I’m still tied to the desk to some degree. Everything about the idea of self-checkout appeals to me, except having to set it up, get the procedure in place, and train the students.

As I’ve started to start to seriously consider this idea, the first place I go for some honest feedback is my fabulous PLN. Anyone who questions the power of Twitter just needs to see an example like this to see how mind-blowing it is to be able to tap into the resources available from so many awesome library friends! Thanks to everyone who responded with suggestions, ideas, and photos of how they’re making self-checkout work for them!

Self-CO1 Self-CO


My thoughts/pondering at this point:

  • What set-up of PC/monitor/laptop/netbook/scanner/mouse/keyboard/etc. will work best for us? This one is leaving me scratching my head since I don’t want a cluttered looking space. Not wanting to spend a ton of money on this for now.
  • What about using an iPod touch or iPad and the Destiny app? BUT it doesn’t have sound, and I associate sound with check-in/check-out…as irrational as that may be.
  • Do I need to set up two stations? One for checking in and one for checking out?
  • Where am I going to put all of this stuff? The layout of my circulation desk is…not conducive to, well, any of this.
  • What am I missing here? What do I need to think about/ponder more?

7 thoughts on “Pondering Self-Checkout

  1. I am also alone in the library, and I couldn’t survive without self checkout. I have a computer desk with a pull out keyboard (which is tucked away most of the time) that is reserved for circulation. It is not on my desk. Our school photo company gives us student IDs that I keep and add patron barcodes to the back. I keep the cards at the circulation desk in a divided box. Each grade level has a section, and I use binder clips (labeled with the class code) to keep the classes together. I also use their lunch numbers as their library numbers, so they can key them in if they prefer. This is especially helpful when they come without their class.

    I use Destiny, and a few things I’ve learned from trial and error.
    I use a special log in that has limited administrative functions.
    Most classes have a student whose job is to return library books in the morning so I can check them in prior to the students coming. Although there are always some that come in with the class. A few teachers will stay and check in the books for me as I start my lesson/story.
    I have a 3 step process with images on a poster next to the monitor.
    1. library card
    2. book
    3. reset

    I also have a laminated sheet on the desk that has a screen capture of the

  2. oops – accidentally sent

    the screen capture shows the circulation page with an error to the reset button, and written in HUGE letters: Don’t forget to Reset.

    Even after doing this for about 5 years, the kids still try and do their books, then the library card. If the previous student doesn’t click on reset, the books will be checked out to the wrong student.

    The other MUST that I just did this year and made a huge difference is to change the notification sounds. There are 4 different ones, the default is the different tones (the 2 pitched beep and the lower buzzer like one).
    The two-tone sound I replaced with “good job.” The kids know to listen to a good job after their library card and then again after every book they scan.
    The other default sound (the buzzer like one) says “we need to fix something.” This covers a lot of scenerios. Usually scanning a book prior to having done their library card. They know if it is something simple like the card issue they can fix it themselves, otherwise they need to come and get me.
    I also have “Oops, you have an overdue book,” and “Your book on hold is available.” With the holds, I have a shelf by the entrance with the books and their names on bookmarks stuck into them.

    Before each class I spread out the library cards on the desk, so they can easily pick out their card.

    PreK and kindergarten are the only ones that don’t use self checkout. PreK I always do, kindergarten, changes from year to year. I start out doing check out for them, and then depending on how the year progresses they can start doing it themselves. I do try and get parent volunteers to come in on kindergarten days. If I am in the library alone with kindergarten, they have been pretty good about waiting patiently in line to checkout when I have to help students select books, or deal with discipline. There are times that I have them sit with their books or do center work at the tables until I am available to checkout.

    I think I covered most of what I’ve figured out over the years. I wish you well, you will LOVE it.

  3. I’ve used self-checkout with my middle school for three years. Since our patron numbers are ten digits long, students need a barcode label with their patron number so they don’t have to memorize that long number. All of our students have to carry agendas (provided by the school). I use Destiny circulation system and at the beginning of the year print patron labels by grade level with their patron barcode. I give those to the ELA teachers along with label protectors and on the first day of school when students are getting lockers and other procedures, they include this sticker. I have my circulation desk monitor facing the library, a scanner, and a mouse. The CPU is hidden under the desk. Students scan their barcode in their agenda first, then their books, then click reset. I know what you mean about the sounds because if I am across the library, I can hear that “blat” noise when something is off and ask what the screen says. If a student forgets his agenda, it’s an easy enough task to ask them to type in their last name and pick their name out of the list that comes up. I don’t do self-check ins, because I have library helpers three times a day who come during a related art to check in and put books away.
    I have done a complete inventory the last two years just to be sure that it is not affecting my book loss rate, and there has been no change. Occasionally, a book goes out of the library without actually being checked out, but it usually comes back in. I would miss so many opportunities to help students if I was tied to the circulation desk.

  4. I have the self checkout set up a little different. I keep all the library cards in binders by class ( they are in the trading card sheets you can get at the dollar store) The students are taught to find their card, scan it in, check out the book, CLEAR. The clear is important and I have a large poster documenting the process (with pics) as well as a smaller direction sheet laminated to the desk. They are also shown how to do this at the beginning of every year. I do not have to separate computers for this. I just turn the monitor (flat screen) around and move the scanner and keyboard to the other side of the desk for them. So basically 2 setups, one when I am available to do the checking in etc and one when I am floating the library and they are checking out their own.

    Goals with this current setup would be (each student having their own card to carry, although we suffered many losses of cards with this originally) I am now sort of aiming for some sort of key chain library barcode scheme but I don’t know if this will ever actually happen. Bookmark library card perhaps? It was suggested to have it in the agendas, however they don’t generally carry those around all day.

    Oh forgot to mention the screensaver also has a tutorial on checking out books, so when they approach the computer they see the directions as well.

    The grade K-1’s generally need help with the self serve checkout, grade 2’s and up excel at it and they are always willing to help each other and they enjoy saying “CLEAR” to the person holding up the line 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  5. I implemented self checkout immediately at my school. It’s so hard being the only adult in the room when 30 students are trying to find the perfect book.

    I use 1 computer station. I check the books in immediately as students walk in. That way they don’t have the confusion of switching the computer from check out to check in (they are confused about those 2 terms anyway) and also so they don’t get as many late book errors as they’re checking out.

    I use index cards. Each class has a different color, and I put them all in a big index card box beside the checkout station. I put a barcode label on each one, then I let my students decorate theirs so they can find it more easily (or for K students who can’t read their names yet). I also have them write 5 things they like on the back of the card for those days they just CAN’T find a book. Then I laminate them.

    Cards stay in the library, and I make them use them to check out. I have a crying two-year-old right now, but if you want more information about self checkout, I have an article on my site.

  6. Hi Tiff Late seeing this but want to add that self-check out is a no brainer!! Kids know their I’d no’s so it’s really easy. I agree to reminding them to reset and I like the idea of setting up tones with voice! I don’t have kids check in because its just too confusing and have student helpers do this. I let them take out a lot of books which I would recommend because if overide is needed our lids just walked away and book never got checked out! Also set up cookies so circ screw doesn’t auto put in student info-kids were checking out as if they were other student!

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