I recently went to a demo on self-checkout presented by Library Automation Technologies.

Here’s the particular machine I saw last week:

It looks like it will be very simple for patrons to use and easy to maintain.

Lots of nice features: handicap accessible, multi-language availability, works as both barcode and rfid reader (also will scan barcode and write rfid tags for the item associated with that particular barcode), customizable screens that can be changed from any networked pc you give permissions to. Cost is about $12K, which is roughly half the price of a similar 3M model. It uses thermal paper – I don’t know how that compares to cheap paper plus ink, cost-wise, but there is no ink ribbon to deal with. One less thing to maintain.

The salesman (Steve) also talked about an IMM machine, which is also on their website. It’s a repository for CDs or DVDs that works kind of like a jukebox. Staff checks in the item, puts the item into the IMM and puts the empty case on the shelf. Patron picks up empty case from shelf, takes it to IMM, scans library card and scans case, and the item comes out of the IMM for patron to put into case and take home. This removes the need for traps and also helps reduce repetitive stress injury for staff. Also, the item cannot be retrieved without a library card, so theft of these items is virtually eliminated. These are a lot pricier than self-checkout: I think he said they start at $37,500 and hold 500 DVDs.

Others who attended the demo said they could see no difference between the LAT model and the 3M model, other than the price, and that they were inclined to go with LAT. They also mentioned they’ll be switching over to rfid in the near future, thus taking advantage of the seamless transition offered through LAT.

In my opinion, it couldn’t be any easier to operate, from a patron’s perspective. And the low maintenance and cost is very appealing, from my end.