Renovating for the future
Candiac, Quebec, a suburb 25 minutes outside of Montreal, is home to just over 21,000 people, but that is soon to change. In 2016, the town began construction on Candiac Square, an urban development project that will ultimately offer 2,000 additional homes. The development is one of the first in Quebec to offer a walkable, bikeable neighborhood in the heart of town, and the Candiac Library is just 600 meters down the road.
A walkable town deserves a browsable library
Anticipating the surge in Candiac’s population, Patricia Lemieux, Library Director, wanted to be ready. “We wanted to modernize the library, give it more of a bookstore feel that allowed for browsing and programs, not only to serve the people who will be moving to the area but also to better serve our current community,” she says.
However, the library faced challenges familiar to many others. They needed to create this new customer-centric experience within their existing space and using their existing staff. The Candiac library has three full-time and three-part time employees, and Lemieux knew that without the help of technology, the employees would still be under-utilized, sitting behind a desk, loaning and returning items.
selfCheck™ kiosks save time and space
In 2015, Candiac Library began converting its collection to RFID. They took their time with the project, using the opportunity to cull their 75,000 item collection of outdated or worn materials.
Candiac began offering the selfCheck service in its newly renovated library in August of 2017. Patron adoption of the service has been swift and enthusiastic. Just two months after installation, 80% of loans are now handled via selfCheck.
“We have staff positioned nearby to help with the selfChecks, but the system is so intuitive the staff is rarely needed. Our patrons appreciate not having to wait in line, and children in particular love to check out their own materials,” says Lemieux.
To complete the renovation of the central library space, Candiac commissioned custom mobile furniture. The new book displays are mounted on wheels and can be easily moved to make room for special events such as conferences, storytimes, training and eventually new programs like videogaming.
flex AMH™: a sorter worth watching
In addition to renovating the circulation desk area to accommodate the new selfCheck kiosks, the library also installed a flex AMH sorter to handle all of the library’s returns. The flex AMH is located in a room adjacent to the hallway the library shares with the recreation department. A large window allows patrons to watch their returns move down the conveyor belt and be automatically sorted into one of three bins.
“The sorter is visible to everyone from both the inside and the outside of the library. It’s a very transparent process, and we’ve received a lot of comments about how cool it is to watch it work,” says Lemieux.
Locating the return in the hallway offers a couple of benefits. Patrons can return items even when the library is closed, and should the library expand to fill the entire building, the sorter will not need to be relocated.
“We were unsure about locating flex AMH in the hallway, concerned that patrons may have problems without a staff member nearby. But it’s going so well that we realize there was no need to worry,” says Lemieux. 85% of the library’s returns are handled via the flex AMH, reducing the number of counter returns to just 15%. The staff monitors the status of the bins remotely from their computers, and they are alerted immediately if a bin is full or needs to be reset.
More time and more… money
The library’s staff are using their new-found time to connect with patrons and create an immersive, engaging library experience. They frequently switch out the books on display to highlight current events and increase circulation of overlooked titles. Though creating these merchandise-style displays is time-intensive for any library, Candiac faces the additional challenge of hosting a collection in both French and English.
“It’s not merely a matter of pulling relevant titles,” says Lemieux. “We also have to make sure that both collections are represented in each display.”
Candiac renovated and upgraded its technology in order to better serve its patrons and prepare for the expected surge in population, but the library has experienced an unexpected benefit from offering a self-checkout option – faster payment of late and lost fees.
When patrons log into the selfCheck, the quickConnect software automatically notifies them of any outstanding fines, even if those fines are not high enough to prevent borrowing materials. In the past staff would often avoid the uncomfortable task of requesting late fees until a patron’s account required it. Now, the selfCheck does the reminding, the patrons pay quickly, and the staff can focus on providing the best customer experience possible, no nagging required.
Step by step, they’ll be ready
The Candiac Library has big plans for the future. They will be expanding their programs and activities now that their new space is complete, and they’ll be promoting those new programs through the selfCheck kiosks’ digital displays. They’re contemplating partnering with a nearby library to purchase inventory tools that will allow the staff to get their bilingual collection back on the shelves correctly and quickly, and there are plans in the works to decorate the return area in the hallway.
Candiac has adopted a step-by-step approach to moving to a self-service model, and it’s working well for them. They’ve been preparing ahead of time to make sure the building is ready, and staff has time to engage in quality interactions with patrons. No doubt, when Candiac Square is completed, the Candiac library will be ready to engage and connect with its newest members, no matter how many there may be.