Americans like to think we are a very independent people. As such, we often like to do things for ourselves rather than rely on a middle man. But does the expediency of self-serve programs really make our lives better? When did the self-serve wave begin? The elevator assistant has long been banished. Except for a few gas stations on the west coast, everyone pumps their own gas. We pay at the pump. We wash our own cars. Fifty percent of the time, I scan and bag my own groceries. If I want a cashier I have to wait in a longer and slower line. I can get lunch out of a vending machine. I get money out of an ATM. I do all my banking on-line. I can easily go through an entire day without speaking to another human about any of my needs. Is this good quality service? I don’t know. I like having options - the option to get in the cashier line, the option of speaking to a bank teller. I like knowing who to speak to if I have questions or problems. So, why am I talking about this?
In the spring edition of American Libraries by the American Library Association, an article entitled "A Circulation Renovation Cuts Expsenses" praises a public library for implementing technology that replaces the need for circulation workers thereby cutting costs significantly. This machine checks books out, in and sorts the returned materials into appropriate bins. Kudos to the engineer of this thing. I understand the economy has caused many libraries to cut budgets, cut jobs and look for ways to serve their communities without cutting programs. But honestly, as a circulation worker myself, this article scares me. I have worked at my college’s circ. department and plan to work there this summer. I’m the first person most people go to for any and all questions – not the librarians’ reference desk. As a student, I am often able to answer patron questions that the librarians don’t know how to answer. Not that I’m dissing the librarians. They know more in general than I do. I guess I don’t feel appreciated knowing a machine can replace me. It makes me uneasy every time technology puts more people out of a job. And I feel like my options are being limited.
What do you all think? Am I being paranoid? What are the up-sides to self-serve check out?