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Self-Service is Good Service: Baltimore County Public Library's transition to a self service model

Your Name and Title: Richard Sigwald, Librarian II

Library, School, or Organization Name: Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL)

Co-Presenter Name(s): n/a

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: US East Coast (Baltimore, Maryland)

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): library managers and directors, automation enthusiasts, circulation/public service librarians, all library staff

Short Session Description (one line): A presentation of the results from a research study conducted on Baltimore County Public Library's transition to a self-service model.

Full Session Description (as long as you would like): As an employee, I experienced the transition Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) undertook to switch to a self-service model. As a library school student, I became fascinated by library automation and technologies, but also recognized the library patron still wanted a personal feel to their library. I decided I would design and conduct a research project on BCPL's transition for my final research assignment. Amazing patron satisfaction scores and budgetary savings were the findings of my research along with some other trends. This presentation will break down the processes BCPL followed to adapt to this service model, as well as the challenges and benefits that the organization also experienced.

Self service has become a major part of the modern world. We use it for banking, traveling, shopping, and with government services. In the eyes of BCPL, it is a form of information literacy. BCPL followed a careful path for the successful adoption of self-service. 93% of all circulation occurs at a self-service terminal of some sort. BCPL made the investment in technology and retraining of staff to shift the service burden to the patron and the self service options. But, the self service model did not lead to layoffs because a library staff member is a valuable asset to the organization. Instead, that time that was traditionally spent with the patron was redirected to expand service hours, programming and outreach. And while doing all this, BCPL saved $1.3 million in staffing and $800,000 in materials. 

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