Express checkout

The Austin Public Library has express checkout kiosks. One of those do-it-yourself deals. If you have your library card handy and you don’t want to wait in line, you can check out your books yourself, quickly.

Unless you’re in line behind me.

I decided to try the express checkout kiosk. I wasn’t in a hurry but just thought I’d try something new. After all, I had my book and my library card. How hard can it be?

I love that question: How hard can it be? It’s my favorite question.

(My previous favorite question was “Where are you?” That was before cell phones were invented. If you forgot to be somewhere, someone would call you at home, you’d answer the phone and they’d yell at you “Where are you?” as if they didn’t know. They knew exactly where you were and where you weren’t. I had to choose a new favorite question after everyone got a cell phone and people used a normal tone of voice when asking where anyone was.)

I should know by now that anytime anyone asks that question, including me — especially me — I will soon be finding how just how hard it can be. In some cases, as with the express checkout kiosk, it was not just hard, but impossible.

Library card. Put the bar code under the scanner beam. Check.

Library book. Put the book’s bar code under the scanner beam. Put the book’s bar code under the scanner beam. Put the book’s bar code … oh, you get the idea. Why won’t it scan my book? I’m looking at the instructional pictures and it looks like I’m doing it right. Looks like I’m doing it right is not the same as doing it right.

Is the book’s bar code under the scanner beam? Yes, it is. But it’s not reading it.

I try this about six or seven times (thus the non-express line, behind me). I finally give up and go the checkout desk.

“I couldn’t get the express checkout kiosk to work,” I explain, as if anyone is interested in why I’m in this particular line. No one is interested. The librarian takes my book, puts it under his scanner beam and then hands it to me. It’s ready for me to take out of the library.

Immediately, I see what my problem was. There are two — not one, but two — bar codes on the back of the book. One is printed on the book itself, with the identifying information and retail sale price. That’s the one I was trying to scan. The other one — about six inches away, at the top of the book — was the library scan code, added by the library when they acquired the book. It’s the library’s bar code that I was supposed to be using.

I never saw it while I was trying to use the express checkout kiosk. I looked at the instructional pictures, positioned the book like it was in the photo and kept trying until I got tired of trying. Glad we got that cleared up.

On my next trip to the library, I try the kiosk again.

Library card bar code under the scanner beam. Check. Library book bar code under the sanner beam. Ha, ha, I’m using the library’s bar code this time.

Still won’t work. Different error this time. See, you can’t just be holding the book in the air to scan the bar code. You have to put the book down in the crook of the kiosk so it can change the setting so it won’t set off the unchecked-out book alarm as you walk out.

Again, the un-express line is behind me.

(Also, you can’t wear sunglasses or hats or any clothing item that hides your face as you walk in. The security video tapes need a clear view of your face. I forgot to tell you that, earlier.)

I finally manage to position the book correctly and check it out at the kiosk. I am amazed that the kiosk didn’t choose that exact moment to run out of paper for the receipt, but the receipt printed without any problem.

Can’t wait to see what kiosk error I discover next time. It’s an adventure, in the slow lane.


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