I wrote to the Toronto Public Library board of directors calling for a moratorium on the gutting and defacement of old branches to install godforsaken RFID self-checkout systems, which do not actually work.
In a display of TPL technical acumen I have come to expect, Director of Branch Libraries Anne Bailey sent along a response – in the form of a scanned-image PDF. I assume this was a deliberate choice given that I am a journalist and an accessibility expert (in fact, I know a great deal about accessible PDF). I assume it was meant to frustrate reading of, quotation from, and distribution of their actual response. Let’s set that aside for a moment.
Bailey trots out various statistics that show most people use self-checkout (they have no choice) and most people like it. The latter says nothing about the endemic failures of the system, nor anything about staff who sit behind a desk and ignore you, or get angry at you when you bring a book near the antenna, or who initially tell you to go use that terminal over there instead of listening to your question, or yell at you from behind the desk when a book you’re carrying sets off their alarm, or chase you up the stairs when that latter thing happens.
Bailey is one of two people this week to insist the old Yorkville desk was not marble. Pictures or it didn’t happen, as the kids say. Neither of these people made a case as to why its replacement had to be MDF and so badly designed that staff can’t actually sit behind it or store a returned book there. Other than that, she pretty much ignores my objections and attested experience. She says nothing about gutting historic library branches, for example, just to convert its entire collection into miniature radio transmitters.
Bailey also promises that improvements to the user interface are coming. Someone else told me that to my face recently, in an actually helpful and informative way. Agincourt branch is the testbed, I was told, a fact TPL has been at pains not to publicize. Language choice on the system is better, there are fewer steps to take, and the crucial deactivation of security bit happens earlier in the process.
I am willing to accept these reports are accurate. But let’s refresh our memories here. Continue reading