Saturday, December 3, 2016

Oh Dear...

Staffless libraries coming to Ireland.

Or so the article would have you believe. As a matter of fact, the libraries will be unstaffed only outside of staffed hours.

I'm obviously not so naive that I don't see that this could be a first step to libraries that are permanently unstaffed, or that have a skeleton crew staff. At the same time, nobody is entitled to a job. If the technology is there and the user experience is not so bad that there is a genuine outcry from the public, then it's hard to oppose it. If we are going to oppose automation when it imperils librarians' jobs, then we really have to impose that rationale consistently-- which we're not going to do.

I recently started using the self-service machines in my local public library. I avoided using them for years, but eventually decided that the staff in that library are so unhelpful-- dilatory, unenthusiastic, unfriendly-- that I didn't feel bad going to the machines instead. Indeed, one of them moaned at me for not using the machine.

At the same time, I have recently switched my bank for the sole reason that my nearest branch (or the nearest to my place of work, since banks are only accessible in Ireland during office hours) went entirely self-service. After sixteen years of loyalty, that pushed me over the edge.

So I think it comes down to what actually discommodes people. People are going to choose convenience over humanity up to the point that automation becomes more inconvenient and troublesome, not less.

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