Patron Privacy in a Self-Service World

Shelves and shelves of books, wrapped up in paper with peoples names on it. The infamous hold shelf. What once was behind the circulation desk is now out in the open, allowing anyone to come in and pick up their holds.

I used to be a big opponent of these types of self-service changes being implemented in libraries. I was worried that they would reduce the need for staffing, and as I was a library clerk at the time, I feared that these changes would lead to me no longer having a job in the future. However, these worries were unfounded – there will always be a need for some sort of staffing as there are tasks that only humans can handle – such as shelving books, pulling books, customer service and just plain on human interaction.

Back to the main point of this post – self-service holds. I really didn’t like the idea of it at first, because I love dealing with people when I am picking up a book from the library. There were instances when I would breeze into the library, pick up my hold in the shelves and check out at one of the machines, and then leave – not once running into a library employee. It was great for ease of check out, but I kind of missed running into people and then talking about what I’m reading at the moment.

However, I was always kind of wary of the holds area. The biggest issue with this area for me is that anyone can see what you have on hold. What if you were requesting a book that you didn’t want people to know you were checking out? We value the privacy of our customers, yet we flaunt it constantly by putting their holds out there.

Has anyone out there in libraryland come across any instances of privacy violations with holds? I would love to know more about it.

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