Monday, July 26, 2004

Klaatu Barada Bookto

A robotics laboratory in Spain is reportedly working on a robotic librarian.
It is to come with a speech-recognition and seeing capacity that should allow it to make out the name of a book when spoken to it and to identify the title on the shelves. When it becomes mobile, it will deliver the book to the eager reader.

Will the robot deliver Asimov's "I, Robot" (or the Will Smith DVD), or will patrons be subject to cyber-censorship?

While the concept of Marian "The Cyborg" Librarian seems ridiculous on its face, other businesses have used service kiosks to great success. A recent Fast Company article looked at the successes of a company called Kinetics, Inc. in placing self-service kiosks in airports (for self-check-in) and in McDonalds. The McDonalds franchisee who installed the kiosks reports higher than expected usage (45-50% of customers use them), higher average sales per transaction, and the need to hire additional employees (both to help customers use the kiosk, and to cook the additional food that customers are ordering).

Libraries should take note of this "if you build it, they will come" phenomenon; new, attractive services will bring in patrons, who will need other services. The Message: innovate, and hire!

The Toll of a New Machine, by Charles Fishman, Fast Company, Issue 82, May 2004, p. 91.