RFID brings staff together and gets them out into the community
Published: October 2019
Scottsdale Public Library, in Scottsdale, Arizona, welcomed 1 million visitors to its five branches in 2018. Those patrons participated in more than 2,000 children’s programs and 1,600 programs for adults while taking advantage of a total collection of nearly 2 million items. To better serve this thriving community and continue to expand popular, relevant programming, Scottsdale Public Library recently converted its collection to RFID with the help of Bibliotheca.
From Broken to Beautiful
When the old sorter at Scottsdale’s main Civic Center branch reached the end of its lifespan, the library upgraded to Bibliotheca’s flex AMH. Installing the new automated materials handling (AMH) system was no problem – the fully modular solution designed to fit the space of the old sorter while offering seven sort locations and two patron return points. The new sorter was an improvement on its own, but Kira Peters, Director of Scottsdale Public Library, says it soon became apparent that updating the library to RFID would greatly increase the efficiencies offered by the modern sorter.
“We knew Scottsdale was one of the last libraries in Arizona to convert to RFID. We’d been looking at various funding sources for a while, but it became a priority when we replaced our old sorter. We had to move forward to meet the technology requirements of a modern library.”
The library undertook the ambitious project of converting its entire collection in all five branches to RFID at once. Using staff and volunteers (including community lifeguards) Scottsdale completed the process in just under 12 weeks. To keep everyone motivated, Scottsdale tracked and published statistics weekly so everyone knew how their branch stacked up in terms of completion.
“People got very competitive about it! Everyone was on fire which really unified the team and made it fun,” says Peters.
Once the conversion was complete, each branch threw a party to thank staff and volunteers and celebrate a job well done.
One Seamless Experience
“It was a big undertaking, and a big investment of time and energy but now since everything is from one vendor, it all works together. It all makes sense and creates a better experience for our customers because everything is seamless,” says Peters.
Though the library installed the selfChecks in the same place the older self-service stations had been, patrons noticed the difference immediately. The selfCheck 500 offers a beautiful, modern touchscreen powered by quickConnect software. The checkout process is intuitive and made even more convenient by the RFID reader that allows patrons to check out several items at once by simply stacking them on the kiosk.
“The patrons noticed right away that the selfChecks were new because they look so fancy,” says Erin Jones, Civic Center branch manager. “I love that people can select the language that makes them most comfortable. Those bells and whistles are really nice when you’re talking about best serving your customers.”
Building Transformational, not Transactional Customer Experiences
Scottsdale Public Library recently wrapped up its strategic plan for the next three years. They’ve identified five major goals, and Peters says that library technology plays a key role in all of them.
Since implementing RFID and the corresponding Bibliotheca solutions, the library has already seen benefits from saved staff time, especially at branches with return and sorting solutions.
“At our biggest branch, we are getting materials back on the shelves faster without nearly as much need to haul things around. There are fewer carts waiting to be shelved and no more complaints from staff about downtime.”
Allowing technology to handle the returning and sorting of items frees up staff to focus on inspiring value-driven library outreach – one of Scottsdale’s principal strategic goals. In addition to familiar offerings such as storytime, Scottsdale has also begun offering Coffee and Conversations, a homeless outreach program designed to help connect people with the resources they need to improve their lives. The Memory Café brings in speakers to address the different aspects of memory care for Scottsdale’s older population, and all five branches offer ESL services including classes and book clubs.
Preparing for the Future
In 2021, the library system created a new level of access and service when they introduced the Pony Express @ Appaloosa Library Self-Service model. Partnering with Bibliotheca, Scottsdale implemented the extended hours solution, open+ access, to increase convenient access to those services. “We really want to focus on putting people at the heart of dynamic library services – not just the patrons, but our staff as well, since they are the soul of the library service,” says Peters.
It’s an exciting time for Scottsdale, Jones says undertaking the RFID project was instrumental in getting the library staff and community fired up about what’s on the horizon:
“The Bibliotheca RFID conversion and the solutions that came with it were a launching point for us. It was a hands-on project that pulled people together – it was definitely a team effort that required everyone to get on board. We’ve got a new strategic plan, we’ve got new equipment, we’ve got a lot of new things happening. This project was a very concrete thing our staff could hold on to, and it built excitement about all the things to come.”
Insights + Trends
Califa and the California State Library invites California public libraries to apply for the Libraries open+ grant.