Perceptions of self-service technology in the small, rural public library of New Zealand: Self-issue @ Selwyn Library – a case study
Self-service technologies are prevalent in our society, and libraries are no exception. The general consensus emerging from the literature outlines the main benefits of self-service implementation: namely resource saving and enhanced customer services. However a more negative view emphasises potential challenges such as cost, staff and customer resistance, as well technical difficulties, not to mention the “dehumanizing of the library”. Much of this current research has tended to focus on the experiences of larger urban libraries with correspondingly large budgets and economies of scale. To address an apparent gap in the literature, this paper aimed to find out how well self-service is accepted in the small, rural public library of New Zealand by conducting a case study on one technology at one library: self-issue at Selwyn Library. A threefold approach was taken: first the statistics were analysed to give a picture of what was happening in terms of self-issue usage; second, staff were interviewed to get their insights and viewpoints; third, customers, both users and non-users of self-issue, were surveyed for their perspectives. The study concluded that self-issue did have a place within the small rural New Zealand public library context. Though some barriers existed there was a section of library customers who embraced it and staff were positive about the potential benefits self-issue could effect. The context also meant that there was a degree of flexibility that may be unavailable to larger institutions. The dual characteristics of not having expensive security systems to integrate with coupled with close customer relationships, allowed smaller libraries to try their own self-issue systems without exorbitant expenditure. The study’s main limitation is that it is based on the experiences and data from one library which has only had self-issue for just over a year, and the particular situation that exists there may not be applicable to other libraries.