There’s been an article recently on Bullet Online about the new self service machines in the library, and how some students find them difficult to use. This, I feel, is a fair point given that it took me a couple of minutes to get to grips with them and I’m pretty darn technology savvy.

What annoys me however is not that the Library didn’t make fixing the problem its number 1 priority (which it should – the system should have been overhauled for usability within days, not 2 months later and nothing done), but what one of the comments on the blog says. I’m not even annoyed at the contents of the comment, but what a subject librarian said when a student rep brought up the issue in a subject committee:

The subject librarin told us that the machines are state of the art and that the library has recived national regonision for this.

How to issue books using the self service machines.

Step back, and think about that. “It’s not a problem, these machines are state of the art”. So was the baggage handling system at Heathrow Terminal 5, and look what happened there. “It’s not our fault that your bags are lost somewhere because we didn’t test and train properly, the machine is state of the art”. That subject librarian should be hauled over the coals. It’s a problem because the student rep has told you it is, so what you need to do is acknowledge it and say what you’re going to do to fix it.

It has taken me a few minutes to put together this poster which explains (very clearly) how to take books out in 8 steps, and what to do if things go wrong. In my personal opinion this is about three steps too long, but these things can be improved on later. It is something like this which the Library should have done as soon as they realised there was a usability issue, not form a subcommittee (yes, there really is one) to discuss how they can improve usability and consider writing some help documentation.