(From Solihull -2008)
also available at http://www.solihull.gov.uk/akssolihull/images/att13075.doc.
During the generation of the business case various options for the effective introduction of self-service in Solihull Libraries were investigated. RFID technology has some significant benefits over its rival bar-coding, with ease of use for the public and ease of location of items being key; this will assist greatly in reducing time spent on what are essentially mechanistic/repetitive processes. In addition the technology opens up some interesting opportunities to help the Library Service in expanding its service into new locations or improving opening hours, as the key receipting and issuing processes can be mostly automated.
Although all stock will need to be ‘tagged’ to implement self service it is not necessary to have self service in all libraries; for the smaller libraries no significant savings can be made except perhaps to allow longer opening hours with minimal extra cost.
The overall capital cost of the project including the tagging of all stock and the rollout of self service to 8 of the libraries will be approximately £600,000 (including contingency). There will also be an annual support/maintenance cost of approximately £51,000.
Four financial models have been put together which are currently considered by finance. Initial indications show that payback could be achieved in just over 4 years, returning a net saving in year 5 of £167,000 with similar annual savings in years 6 onwards. A more ambitious model indicates payback within 3 years with an annual saving thereafter of over £400,000.
The savings are based on changing the way items are processed with delivery direct to Libraries and a rollout of self-service to 8 libraries; use of self-service in these libraries is expected to be greater than 95%. The savings have been split between paying off the capital investment and subsequent reduction in cost for the Library Service; in line with good practice part of the savings are allocated to refresh the technology in future years (interest at 6% has been built in to the cost model).
The costs and savings given are based on conservative estimates and allow for a phased achievement of the savings, they are also dependent on all 8 Libraries being implemented by the end of December 2008. It should be noted that based on the figures in this report that each month of delay will effectively cost the Council up to £35,000 in lost savings so a timely implementation is recommended.
By using self-service technology it will be possible to extend the opening hours of certain libraries with reduced additional staff costs. Other opportunities to increase revenue are also available, including the possibility of selling advertising on the kiosks and/or the receipts and the possible commercial use of the space freed up in the Central Library.
Although there seems a reasonable level of support for the implementation of self service from Library Staff, they are concerned about the possible reduction in direct contact with the customer. This is a valid concern, however rather than less contact it is likely that it will be the type of contact that will change as instead of being ‘tied’ to the counter to issue/receipt items (particularly at busy times) staff should have more time to discuss things with customers and help them find what they are looking for.
This business case is based on a significant reduction in the number of FTE’s in the front line staff, as vacancies arise. However, the time freed up by implementing this technology can of course be utilised in a number of other ways, One way would be the ability to open existing libraries for longer or to open new libraries with no additional staff costs. Other options include utilising the time to provide improved outreach services and other value added services to the public or supporting other Council services in the libraries.
The introduction of self service should not be underestimated in terms of the changes in working practices for the staff and the way it will impact on how the customer will use the library. Significant attention is therefore required to the overall process and procedures to be used to ensure the most effective use of the technology whilst ensuring the overall experience of using the library continues to be a good one. Communication and training for both staff and customers will be vital in ensuring the success of this project as will effective project management.