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Check it Out
Bartle Library installs self checkout system

A student working on a research project navigates the BU website from her dorm room, searches for the book she wants on Bearcat, and with a mouse click, checks the availability of a book from the campus library.

Within seconds she holds a printed list of her books and where she can find them. She arrives at the library, gathers her books, and on the way out, performs a self-checkout, scanning the book’s bar code into a computer along with her student identification card.

Sounds easy. Well, that’s what Library administrators are striving for.

With the purchase of a new self-checkout system in the Glenn G. Bartle Library, students and other members of the campus community now can check out books with the same speed and ease that they buy chips and dip at the grocery store.

“Our libraries are striving to be learner-centered,” said John Meador, director of University Libraries. “We’re enhancing access to library resources by extending library hours and expanding our array of electronic services.”

Under the new system, users place their identification card in the appropriate area and then slide the books’ barcodes under a scanner. Screen instructions guide the person through the process. Moments later, the checkout procedure is done and a receipt is printed out with complete confidentiality.

Meador said he learned from a recent student opinion survey that what students wanted most was longer library hours. “So we went to work at being more than just a place to come to read or study, but to provide access to resources during all hours the Library is open,” Meador said. Library hours were expanded to close at 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

The introduction of self-check circulation in the Library empowers learners who want self-reliance, Meador said. “Our students like the empowerment and privacy of self-checkouts like ATMs, gas cards and self-checkouts in the grocery line,” Meador said. “So our Library is responding to their desires.”

Library checkout staff will still be on hand for patrons who need additional help. However, the new system makes it easy for students to check out books themselves so staff can carry out other duties.

Much work had to be performed on existing systems before SelfCheck could be installed. Planning meetings, system evaluations and software upgrades were needed, along with the purchase of new licensing. “SelfCheck unit isn’t a stand-alone,” said Andrew Perry, assistant director of systems for University Libraries. “It works with other Library systems in real time communication.”

Perry worked closely with Computing Services to get the system up and running.

Students have said they really appreciate the speed at which they can now check out books and, they said, it would also make for shorter checkout lines.

“It will be helpful if you are in a rush,” said Evelyn Rodriguez, a senior graphics design major from the Bronx. “You don’t have to wait in line for a clerk.”

Meador hopes to install an additional self-check machine in the Science Library. Also, the virtual reference service, an interlibrary loan service and electronic reserves allow remotely located users access to services formerly restricted to Library premises.

Beyond the convenience of having a main library that meets the growing needs of students and faculty members, Meador said he is enticed and challenged by the prospect of creating a library system that is technologically functional for decades to come.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08