Your System – Not Guilty As Charged

Just another weblog

Library Checkout Software: Guilty as Charged!

Posted by Joel Schipper on November 3, 2017

I don’t get to see that many “packaged” software offerings that are really “Guilty as Charged” … that is, the software really does a bad job of something.  And I don’t usually point out software names.  But I’m repeatedly frustrated at my local library by the check-out screen, from a 40-year old software outfit called Innovative Interfaces, and my suspicions were confirmed by the younger librarian at the desk.

There are two parts to the problem.

The first part is the user logon or sign-in.  Everyone knows that passwords emphasize the use of a mix of lower and upper case letters.  Yet this password entry screen has no upper case shift key on the screen … thus, even though you have a password with upper and lower case that works properly on the library’s web interface, the checkout kiosk ignores the upper case letters.  I fail to see the point of this.

The second part, though, is a more serious user interface problem, and has stumped me more than half the time I go to check out of a book.  Again, the web portion is great — I can search and reserve (‘hold”) a book easily on-line.  But when I go and physically get the book, and bring it to the check-out kiosk, I sign-in, and then lay the book on the scanner bed.  This part works great.  The problem is what to do next … one would expect to see a large and prominent button — probably lower right corner — that says “Continue” or “Finish” or “Press here if done checking out books”.  However, as they used to say on Saturday Night Live, “But, No!”  There isn’t any such button.  The only option remaining on the screen is in the upper right corner, and says “Sign out, Joel Schipper.”  Really?  Why would I want to sign-out before I feel like I’ve finished the book checkout function.  Every librarian I’ve encountered at my branch feels the same way.  Yesterday, the fellow said that Innovative Interfaces will not make this kind of change unless “all” the libraries who use the software demand the change.  Again, really?  Where is the desire to provide an outstanding user experience?  Someone at Innovative is way behind the curve here.

To be fair, the company is now under new (and private) ownership, with a new CEO.  A quick Google search brought up this article from the Library Journal’s website about how a new CEO (in 2013) was going to modernize the company and shake up it’s culture.  You can read it for yourself:  We’re waiting! 


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