Library Self-Checkout hardware selection. My recommendations.

So you're looking for hardware to build a self-checkout system for your library? How much should you spend? Here I will offer my opinion...

You will need (1) a computer, (2) a monitor (or touch monitor), (3) a barcode reader, (4) a receipt printer (optional).

For the computer, I would totally recommend the Dell Optiplex 3080 micro PC. 8GB, 256 GB SSD. These are available currently for about $650. Whichever PC you get make sure it comes with enough USB ports. This one has six.

A touch monitor is nice. A 15-inch 4:3 ratio screen is best. While large widescreen monitors are fine they do not improve the user experience and can be distracting. Here are touch monitors from Elotouch and Beetronics. These cost around $500 to $600 depending on the options. I recommend the built-in speaker and desktop stand. Be aware you may need a video adapter cable to connect the PC to the monitor. (Such as Display Port from the PC to VGA on the monitor.)

 If you do not wish to use a touchscreen, a regular monitor will work with a mouse or keypad. The keypad also allows users to enter their library card number and/or pin.

Next is a barcode reader. I have used the Zebra LS2208 (Formerly Symbol/Motorola), and its sister DS2208 with great success. The DS2208 uses a camera and will read a picture of a barcode on a smartphone. Of course, there are many other barcode readers that work great so feel free to use the one you feel comfortable with.

To connect the scanner to your PC, I generally recommend getting the serial interface, which means also getting a USB serial port adapter. The reason for the serial interface is that it's faster and immune to a Windows software issue where another program reads the keyboard. It is slightly harder to configure though.

The last item is a receipt printer. You can skip this if you prefer patrons to stamp a date-due label inside the item. I prefer the quality of the Star TSP743ii. However, this Epson TM88 is ubiquitous and slightly lower priced. Make sure when ordering your printer to get a USB cable and power supply, which are often sold separately.

Here I have covered the basic hardware you will need to build a self-checkout system for your library. Of course, there are many other peripherals you can add later, such as an RFID antenna, a mag-stripe ID card reader (popular with schools), and a payment system for cash and cards.

Please let me know if you have questions or comments.


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