Self-service checkouts… in Wanstead Library??

Redbridge Council has announced that Wanstead Library is to shut for six weeks after Christmas to allow the installation of self-service checkouts. These will allow books to be taken out, renewed, returned, and for fines to be paid, thus at a stroke avoiding the terrifying risk of a librarian’s raised eyebrow at a badly-overdue book. At Gant’s Hill library, where these checkouts have already been introduced, apparently 80% of people (or “customers”, as Redbridge calls them) use the machines.

A promised gain which may well offset any resistance to the machines – the council promises the library will be able to open an extra day each week, meaning an end to the rather quaint “Closed Wednesday” tradition.

There is, however, one fly in the ointment. In its statement announcing the temporary closure, the council says:

We apologise to customers for the disruption caused and hope they will continue to use other libraries, or renew their items online during this time.

This appears to mean that books taken out before the closure will have the standard three-week loan period, and that they will have to be renewed online or at another branch in the meantime. This could be bad news for the technophobic, Wanstead-bound, offline or plain disorganised, who – it appears – will be lumped with a £4.20 fine (20p x 21 days) when the library eventually reopens. At least they won’t have to contend with any eyebrows when paying it.

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