Gatineau, Quebec is located on the northern shore of the Ottawa river in Canada, just across from Ottawa, Ontario. The Gatineau Public Library services system encompasses 11 branches, serving 300,000 residents.
Making the most of new technology
In an effort to increase efficiency and improve patron experience, in 2019 the Gatineau Public Library began converting its collection to RFID. An RFID conversion is a large undertaking and Gatineau’s library leaders wanted to be sure that the new solutions they selected would not simply work well, but also provide their patrons with a stellar library service and experience.
“We did a lot of research before making a decision,” says Elsa Hui-Yi Chang, Staff Librarian. We visited a lot of libraries, saw their systems, and compared solutions from different providers.”
The feedback they received about Bibliotheca was promising and the library was drawn to the fact that Bibliotheca had a nearby office and local technicians. But more than anything, Gatineau was excited to work with a company that offered so many different, integrated solutions.
“The range of products is what makes Bibliotheca stand out,” says Hui-Yu Chang. “A lot of companies offer certain products, but not all. Since this was a very long-term project with a lot of potential, we wanted to work with a company that could accompany us throughout the project and meet a variety of our needs. We are very happy with our choice.”
The library selected selfCheck 1000 kiosks, a flex AMH sorter, Bibliotheca RFID gates, and the Mobile DLA scanner.
The selfCheck 1000 provides a modern, intuitive self-service experience. LED guidance leads patrons through the entire checkout process, making it simple for even first-time users to follow along and transforming the library service.
“The selfChecks are very stable. We are really happy with this purchase. The employees love it, and we barely have questions from customers because it’s so intuitive,” says Hui-Yu Chang. “We appreciate being able to change the language too. Most of our patrons are French speakers, so we must prioritize French, but patrons can easily select the language that works best for them.”
Gatineau was hoping that updated self-checkout solutions would increase the percentage of patrons using self-service. It worked. Now, more than 80% of all transactions are handled at the selfCheck.
“The selfChecks with integrated payment options save so much time,” says Hui-Yu Chang “The counter is less busy, so staff can walk through the library offering personalized help. There’s more time to process and reshelve returns which reduces waiting time for patrons.”
RFID: delighting staff and patrons alike
As expected, RFID has been a major time-saver for Gatineau, but it has also had some unexpected benefits.
“The staff can just grab a pile of books, place them on the workstation all at once, and have them immediately processed,” says Hui-Yu Chang. “The mobile DLA scanner has been surprisingly helpful for our technical services team. We can place a hold on an item and if the item is in technical service, we can use this tool to find it faster. It’s very useful for us.”
Like many libraries, Gatineau hosts a lot of classrooms. With so many children borrowing so many materials, items occasionally get overlooked during checkout. Previously, when the security alarm would sound, staff had to manually rescan every book to find the culprit. Now, the staffConnect software identifies the title of any item that has not been deactivated as it passes through the RFID gates.
“Instead of collecting all the books, we can just ask which child has a particular title. We then place the book on the workstation, and it’s correctly checked out,” says Hui-Yu Chang . “The staffConnect gate software is very helpful, as is the libraryConnect software that lets us monitor the status of all of our Bibliotheca equipment at a glance from one place. We use it daily.”
Gatineau installed a flex AMH to increase efficiency and automate returns, but the solution has become a focal point of the library.
“Surprisingly the sorter is very interesting to our patrons,” says Hui-Yu Chang . “We installed the flex AMH in a small glass room. So many people stop to watch it work that we installed a projector in the room as well to display our promotions on the glass. That location is amazing.”
Gatineau’s project is far from complete. The library system will be building a new branch in 2023/2024 and the new location will feature a host of Bibliotheca solutions, including a 15-bin flex AMH.
“Displaying the sorter has worked so well, we may consider a similar arrangement in the new library,” says Hui-Yu Chang .