RFID and self service is now the norm in many public and academic libraries with technology improvements now making it a popular option for both library management and library users. One element of the library design process is to space plan the self service function into our interior design. For the library designer and the self service provider there are a few things to consider making sure the self service points are properly placed from both a function and user point of view.
We asked James Breakell, Managing Director at D-Tech International, one of the leading providers of RFID self service technology to libraries some of the issues that need to be considered when implementing a self service function into a library design.
How much do D-Tech liaise with the library interior designers when installing and implementing self service into a space? Is there usually a conversation about this or is it an area you think that could be improved?
We always recommend the client puts us in touch with the library interior designers. If we are installing as part of a new build / refurbishment where possible we try to liaise with the architect too. In cases where the client is procuring the solution from us it is sometimes hard to get that contact because we would usually be installing after the hand-over of the building. So there can be a shortfall in that respect and we are always happy to collaborate with the interior designers.
Do you have any advice on what NOT to do when designing space for the self service units?
Today’s self-service units are more flexible with RFID than the older electromagnetic solutions. Our advice is to ensure that sightlines are good and that the units are visible to library staff should assistance be required. What you don’t want is to have them too close to the entrance / exit so not to trigger any book detection systems. You also want to space plan the units so that they don’t block a gangway place them near to any staff counters/desks where they might then cause issues if a queue happens to develop a busy times.
Library shelving is an important part of any library interior design and this has to be carefully space planned carefully. Are there actual recommended distances between shelving bays and the RFID detection gates that need to be taken into consideration?
Unfortunately there are no specific rules and can depend on how the RFID gates (antennas) are located compared to the shelving e.g. parallel or end on etc. Our engineers would set up the system before drilling holes etc. to ensure that the detection is as good as it can be and that interference is reduced as much as possible. A conversation between the interior designer and the self service provider would always be useful here.
Do you have any advice re designing where self service units should be placed e.g. at front of library, back of library, spread out, upstairs, downstairs, not near window or radiators, near socket points?
Apart from when I have already advised above, ensuring that power and data is nearby and ideally covered by the self-service unit to prevent them from being switched off by those unauthorised to do so. It’s not essential for them to spread out over several floor unless there are exits out of the library on all floors. We would also advise that they are located in an area that borrowers need to pass when heading to a staff desk to encourage them to use the self-service units rather than heading for physical staff members who are generally there to help and not to be issuing / returning materials.
What about designing the space around the self service units – you don’t want them in a crowded area, do you want them visible from the counter (i.e., good sightlines), do they make a noise?
Again, apart from what I have already advised above you don’t want them in a crowded area but at the same time you do not want them out of the way where borrowers find it easier to try and hunt down a member of staff to process their materials. Our self-service units do offer an audible instruction but more often than not this is not activated as the on-screen instructions are very comprehensive. Self service is not a new service anymore so most library visitors will expect and even look out for self service units.
How about integrating the units into the library design in terms of colour, style etc?
Our RFID solution is available in any RAL colour and we have a range of models available to suit different environments including child themed and sized versions for kids’ areas.
What about signposting – do you need big signs saying self service or are we so used to it now we don’t need that?
I don’t think they are a necessity now but some University and Public Libraries choose to do this if they have invested heavily in the implementation and want to draw attention to a new, modern service.
Are there any new trends for self service that we can expect to see in 2019?
There are always lots of new trends / features appearing with self-service units but I think it is important to listen to our customers to understand what it is they want to achieve as a service. It’s also important to listen to library users and understand their expectations of self service. At D-Tech we are constantly developing our solution to accommodate everyone’s needs. The application of AI (Artificial Intelligence) into self service is going to be an important development going forward as the ‘helping yourself’ offer becomes even wider ranging and more popular.