Self-Service Discovery

Teens help yourself boardYour catalog is likely the primary way that users discover materials in the library, but it shouldn’t be the only way. Many users may be hesitant to search for sensitive topics by using Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) or by asking a library worker directly for the material. Users should be able to access all the materials in your library without asking for it directly or even using one of your OPACs. If your library currently keeps titles behind the desk and only accessible by request, consider why and ask if this is necessary.


School libraries that organize and label their materials by reading or grade level risk forcing students to disclose their reading capability to their peers. Use standard, viewpoint-neutral labeling in the library. Work with administration to develop policies that address privacy and uphold students First Amendment Rights.


If appropriate for your type of library, create handouts on sensitive topics that can be discovered without staff interaction.

Walk through your library to determine all the ways a user can access the physical collection. 

What barriers are the barriers to access? If someone can only find an item through a digital search or by speaking to a librarian, what could you do to allow for self-service?