on the merits of self-checkout

Public libraries do it, why shouldn’t we?

I implemented self-checkout last school year purely as a self-preservation measure. I only had an assistant for 75 minutes a day, all of my classes had 25-30 students, and I think it’s important for me to be available to help kids select books – it’s way less important for me to operate a scanner.

When we started, I went over the self-checkout steps with all my students. I also deputized a few kids in each class to receive extra training so they could help their classmates. The first few weeks required a fair amount of oversight from me, but now – more than a year later – it’s glorious. I’m free to recommend books and help students with their work, as is my assistant, who is now in the library all morning. Students are able to help themselves when I’m in a meeting, or if I have to step out for a minute.

Plus, they love it. It’s kind of empowering! They love using the scanner. They love knowing that I trust them. They love helping their classmates when problems arise (as they inevitably do).

This works because I’m not super possessive about books, and I don’t freak out if a book gets checked out to the wrong kid now and again (and I’ve been surprised by how rarely that happens). You definitely have to be willing to relinquish some control. But it is so nice – for me and for the kids.

Here’s the instruction sheet I keep next to the checkout computer. This is a good reminder for all of our kiddos, and is awesome for new students too – no joke, I had a new sixth grader this year who never even asked how to check out books. She just walked right up, read the directions, and did it.

Like I said: glorious.

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