Using technology to excite patrons and drive outreach

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Challenge
Bundaberg Public Library needed to improve the customer experience and streamline day-to-day library tasks so they could get out into the community and entice more people to take advantage of all the library has to offer.
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Solution
The library implemented a host of integrated Bibliotheca RFID solutions including self-checkout, intelligent shelving, security gates, and digital lending.
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Result
Providing convenient, easy self-service options has allowed Bundaberg’s staff to focus on meaningful personal interactions and community outreach while offering patrons convenience and choice.

Bundaberg Regional Library: partnering with Bibliotheca to improve the customer experience

Bundaberg Regional Library serves the beautiful coastal city of Bundaberg, Queensland in Northeastern Australia. With a population of nearly 100,000, the city is home to both young families and retirees and is an important tourism gateway for national parks, the Great Barrier Reef, and resort islands. 

The best solutions make for the best RFID experience

“We knew putting RFID in place would achieve a lot of efficiencies and increases in service to our customers,” says David Cornwell, the Operational Supervisor of Bundaberg Regional Council Libraries. “We went to market with a tender document and short-listed a couple of quality companies, but ultimately, it was Bibliotheca’s innovative solutions, and particularly their smartShelf that won us over.”

With the smartShelf, library users can return their items by simply placing them on an intelligent shelf within the library. The shelves automatically update user accounts and set item security, making items ready for circulation by other users. 

“We could see straight away the potential for freeing up our staff and providing greater ease of access and use of the library for our customers. That has certainly proven to be the case,” says Cornwell. 

One vendor equals seamless service

In addition to the smartShelf, Bundaberg implemented a whole host of Bibliotheca solutions including selfCheck self-service kiosks, RFID premium gates, and the cloudLibrary platform for digital lending. 

“The selfCheck offers the most modern self-service borrowing experience. The quickConnect software offers our customers a simple, intuitive experience for both physical and digital lending. It’s easy for staff to customize and we appreciate being able to promote events and services in a very unobtrusive way,” says Cornwell. 

Cornwell was initially concerned that older customers would resist using self-service and might have trouble navigating the technology. Surprisingly, the truth is quite different. 

“The feedback from patrons about the selfChecks has been overwhelmingly positive. A lot of our older customers say, ‘This is quite easy, this is great!’ That’s wonderful to hear, and I think really speaks to the quality of the package that Bibliotheca provides.”

If a patron does accidentally forget to check out an item before leaving the library, the RFID gates make correcting the mistake comfortable for everyone involved. 

“If a customer walks out of the library with 10 books and forgets to check out one book, the system will alarm and print a little receipt slip for our staff which identifies which book they’ve forgotten. We know exactly which book is triggering the alarm and that makes the interaction with the customer much less confrontational, much smoother, and more pleasant for all,” says Cornwell. 

Bibliotheca raises the bar for customer service and outreach

“We’ve been very impressed with the level of customer service from Bibliotheca. Our RFID project went off without a hitch. The team was very willing to accommodate our compressed implementation schedule. I have to hand it to Bibliotheca, if we’ve ever had an issue, they put their entire team on it and solve it completely.  

“The cloudLibrary team is remarkable. With our previous eBook provider, we might have to wait three or four days for a response when we reached out with a problem. The cloudLibrary team responds within 24 hours, which is remarkable considering the 10-hour time difference between Australia and the United States. All around they are very professional,” says Cornwell. 

From a patron perspective, RFID and Bibliotheca solutions have resulted in a more engaging library experience. Bundaberg offers several programs for its community, including early literacy programs, robotics, and coding. The selfChecks and smartShelf have freed up staff to be able to run these programs and simultaneously focus on outreach. 

Cornwell explains, “We’ve already captured the people who come into the library with their children. We want the people that are not using the library at the moment. RFID and Bibliotheca solutions give us the flexibility to get out there in the community and push those programs. That’s a really, really important thing.”

“Pretty much the only complaint we’ve gotten is the one you hope to get – ‘I don’t want you to lose your job!’ Actually, these solutions just make our job better. The staff has a lot more valuable interactions with their customers, so in terms of job satisfaction, they’re a lot happier.

From corner desk to concierge

In addition to providing more time for programming, Cornwell says making the switch to RFID has had a big impact on the customer experience.

“Now, when a customer walks into our library they’re first greeted by a concierge. If they need assistance, they can get it immediately. That goes a long way for that initial welcoming impression. They also have increased assistance from roving staff as well, which we couldn’t do before. There’s been a doubling in customer interactions.”

Customers carrying an armful of books can walk directly to the smartShelves, and return them just by placing them on the shelves. They can then browse the recently returned items on the shelf, search for materials in the stacks, or simply use the library spaces. When they are ready, they go to the selfCheck where they can not only borrow their physical materials but also find out what events the library has planned and borrow digital titles through cloudLibrary. 

“The customer is in control. They determine when and how to return and borrow items as well as how much interaction they’d like to have with staff. Our customers now have choices, and that is a huge improvement in our service,” says Cornwell. 

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