Checkout System: Trial Run Results/Lessons Learned

In the last post, I described both the steps taken to prepare for the trial run and the trial run itself. In this post, I would like to discuss some of the results of that run and the lessons learned. I will approach each stage separately and will leave until a later post some overall thoughts.

Stage 1: Stabilize and Maintain the Hardware

As one might recall, this stage happens before a request can even be made as the collection items have to be assessed and processed. BUT, the Checkout System returns to this stage after the items have been successfully reshelved. As such, I will revisit the results applicable to this stage later in this post. Stay tuned…..

Stage 2: Request the Hardware

The major issue with this step was getting started. The pages had trouble remembering where to begin, which resource to use. This is understandable because only one had experienced a single training session and a cursory one at that. Once the pages navigated to the UTVA Wiki page, the same problem occurred: which resource in the UTVA Informational Packet to use first?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was concerned about UTVA documentation becoming unwieldy. Item level control and description can lead to an explosion of records. In this stage of the Checkout System, I created the opposite problem. By trying to (gently) cram all of the relevant information in one ‘convenient’ location, the Pages were overloaded with too many options. It reminds me of shopping for toothpaste…my mind shuts down whilst looking at the wall of choices. My instructions and labels were less than clear. The Pages mentioned that there were “lots of links”, a “lot of steps”, and the process was a “little confusing.”

As I described in an early post, the best part of the Wiki is its currency. As a living document, we can revisit it and make improvements. For example, we plan to create a uniform starting position by removing some options and bringing others forward.

The Pages did successfully complete the UTVA Hardware Request slip by filling in the SKU#s, names, and locations of the console and its peripherals.

Stage 3: Locate & Retrieve the Hardware

The major result – and likely the one that most surprised me – for this step was that the Pages pulled the boxes instead of individual items. This was totally unexpected for me and it should not have been. The peripherals were individually bagged and placed within their appropriate boxes. With the item level control, I assumed they would grab only the console and the peripherals and move back downstairs.

When Pages at the Briscoe service archival requests (compared to maps or photographs as examples), the entire box is retrieved and brought to the patron. Since the peripherals were in boxes, naturally they pulled the boxes. When I asked the Pages about pulling individual items instead, one responded that the Pages reshelving the next morning would have no clue where to return the items since the individual archival ID tags did not come with the item’s AR# and/or location. In an earlier post, I described how Pages can ‘deduce’ a box’s home location by its tag. In the case of individually pulled items, the reshelving Pages would have to use the original request slip or the UTVA Master Hardware Inventory List. It simply did not make sense to the Pages to leave the box behind.

The Pages located the objects and brought them downstairs.

Stage 4: Assemble & Use the Hardware

This stage went quite smoothly. The major issue was the setup location. I had originally planned to assemble the system in the Winkler Study Room instead of the Reading Room because I was imagining a scenario in which we want to minimize the potential for distraction for the other patrons. Unfortunately the assembly instructions and digital images are all on the computers in the Reading Room. So…we set up there instead. One page would read aloud the instructions while the other was looking at the digital images. I’ll put in a request to get the Pages some IPads so we are not tethered to the desktops.

The Pages assembled the system and we played some 1983 Frogger with some incredibly unresponsive controllers.

Stage 5: Reshelve the Hardware

The major issue here was the written instructions on the Wiki. The instructions were written with respect to reshelving the individual items, not the boxes. This created some confusion especially if the researchers wish to place a hold on the items and use them the following day. What happens to the system? What happens to the boxes? Do we leave the system assembled yet detached from the TV? Etc.

Since we had only an hour, we ended the scenario by imagining that the researchers are indeed finished and did not place a hold. The white UTVA Hardware Request slip proved useful because the box ID tags do not intuitively point to a home location.

The Pages successfully returned all the items and boxes.

And back to Stage 1: Stabilize & Maintain the Hardware

After wrapping up with the Pages, two suggestions were provided. If the UTVA items are to be pulled individually, the AR# and location need to be added to the items’ archival ID tags. If not, the boxes’ tags need to be amended to include location.

Second, we bandied about the idea of adding an item’s digital image to the tag as well to help with identification purposes. We take the photos of the items when processing but we don’t know how big the ID tags would need to be to accommodate photos.

This was an incredible experience for me. Watching the Pages interact with the Checkout System shined a massive spot light on pain points to which I was utterly blind. Due to creating and working with the system for months, it ‘seemed’ perfectly natural to me. Now, I can revisit the access tools and make them even more perfectly natural.

In the next post, I will discuss my overall thoughts and impressions.


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