Instant Circ Desk, Just Add LaLonde

As I discussed in the post, Circ Schemes! Bringing it to the streets., one of my plans for 2013 was to being circ services out to public and community events. The best part about this particular scheme is how it improves and effects so many different elements of our library. Through the process of getting the Instant Circ Desk from a fevered dream to a Thing That Could Happen, I was able to simplify a complicated work process for my staff! And the Instant Circ Desk will (hopefully) increase circulation stats and increase the number of library card holders by marketing our collections to specific community groups AND signing people up for cards where they already are! It’s pretty exciting!

So as you would imagine, I was pretty jazzed to take the Instant Circ Desk on a test run at an off-site community event this week! One of my co-workers was heading out to the Isabella County Commission on Aging to do an iPad presentation to a group of seniors and I asked if I could tag along. Since this was the trial run, I went all out in preparation. I agonized about the small themed collection that I would bring with me. We only had four iPad specific books, so I also grabbed any relevant computer related books, a bunch of Steve Jobs biographies and several of our or back issues of Wired magazine. I’d be using one of the library’s circulating Mac laptops as my circ station so I got one of our IT interns to install Google Earth on there so I could see if anybody was in our district, PER THE SCHEME. Luckily the whole lot fit in a medium sized box.


There was one small hitch in my plan, it being that we didn’t have a receipt printer I could take with me off-site. And who wants to bring a danged receipt printer? But if we circ’d any items, we’d want to print the due date somewhere. So WHAT DO? Well I decided to go old school to solve this problem and I created a few simple bookmarks where I could stamp the due date and stick them in the books.


Once I got all of that figured out, I had almost everything I needed. I also made sure to take all of the usual marketing and informational accoutrement; Computer Class schedules, One-on-One appointment slips, Policy brochures that we give out with new cards and our guides on how to download Overdrive to Apple products. I was SO prepared. Possibly over prepared but you can never be too sure during your first time out!

Thankfully, when we got to the Commission on Aging they had a table in the back of the room that I could take over with my circ scheming. I had lots of room to display some items and put up a shelf for all of the items I brought with me!


The turnout at the Commission on Aging was great! We had a full house and Judy had a lot of good questions. I was able to sign four people up with new library cards after the program and I was able to renew five expired cards on-site! Everybody who was interested in getting a card or renewing was excited about using our Overdrive eBook collection on their iPads, so that was awesome. Unfortunately nobody wanted to check anything out so my perfectly selected collection was just for show BUT now that I think about it, since it was an iPad demo it would make more sense that people are more interested in Overdrive vs. checking out some books at that moment.


  • Don’t bring such a large collection with me! This will need more experimentation at different kinds of events to really see what to expect from the material circulation side of the process, but I do know that I brought too much stuff with me for THAT event. Anything where kids and parents would be involved, I could probably get a bunch of stuff circ’d out but that is to be seen!
  • Truncate the Library Card signup. Even though I simplified the process with my Google Earth polygon, the library card signup is never super quick no matter where you go. So I had people fill out the applications, checked to make sure everything was on there, filled out the minimum required info (Name, Barcode & Expiration Date) and gave them their card. Once I got back to my office, I pulled out all the apps and completed the registration process completely. That worked just fine and I can’t foresee any big problems stemming from that if you already checked if they were in District & that the app was filled in properly.
  • Prepare for some Awkward Convos. I had to inform some people that they weren’t in our district. :-( That’s always awkward but it’s super awkward when you’re on-site somewhere. Maybe it’s because you’re not in The Library, surrounded by library things, so when you have to deliver bad news sitting at a folding table it seems extra weird. HOWEVER I had some good conversations with people about what being “In-District” means and why they weren’t in our district (Millage vote) and what they could do to get back in our district if they wanted to.
  • Dealing With Problems On-Site. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with this but I was worried it might happen. I was worried somebody would try to circ something and they owed money in fines. Technically I COULD take money and deal with fines with our ILS but did I want to? That could potentially be a whole bag of rattlesnakes if I send staff people off with a money box. Thankfully, we do have the option for people to pay for their fines with a credit card via our website. So if worse came to worse, we could do it that way and I wouldn’t have to worry about cash transactions. This is something I’ll have to mull over for a while.
  • All in the Family: Bring in Reference. Several people requested that I helped them download the Overdrive app while I was at the circ desk, which I was happy to do. However that wasn’t why I was there and if someone wanted to get a card while I was helping someone download the app, I’m kind of defeating the purpose of mobile circ. So why not bring a reference person with me next time to answer questions? Since the Instant Circ Desk can be just as much about sharing information about the library as it is about checking out and getting cards, having another person would really help. It would depend on the size of the venue to see if that is possible but it’s something I’d want to pursue.

All in all, I consider the Instant Circ Desk’s maiden voyage to be a success! The coordinator at the Commission on Aging LOVED that we brought the circ desk with us to the presentation and she even updated her card too! I look forward to bringing it to other community events this year, expecially the summer events and events out in our branch communities. I’ll keep you updated!

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  1. Huzzah! High fives! This is terrific – I’m so happy that your scheme came to fruition so successfully! Random thought: could you work out a way with your online ILS to email people a receipt instead of having to print one? Maybe not a solution for every patron but personally I’d love to have an email receipt rather than a piece of paper.

    1. We DO have that option with the online version! But it’s currently a setting, instead of an option you can choose at checkout. So in order to do it, you have to go into the person’s settings and change it to email. Which is a PITA if you’re doing it on the fly. Though a tech ticket couldn’t hurt asking if we could make it also an option!

  2. I think about this too. And I know we have restrictions as far as what we can tell people. Like, we can’t tell them how to vote but we can give them information about the situation. I tell people about the millage and how the vote turned out and if they wanted to get back in the district they would have to talk to their township people, etc. I also wonder how other states deal with districts? Michigan districts can be really complicated sometimes.

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