The Espoo City Library is looking for a suitable technical printing and copying solution for customer use. The aim is to find the most user-friendly method. At the moment, it is important for people to be able to print, for example, official forms and their scanned versions. The printing service is especially important for those who are not able to use mobile devices to show their electronic travel tickets. We have been looking for a solution for years but have not been able to find a perfect one. In fact, the solutions on offer have not even been satisfactory. Now there are two alternative solutions available. However, the City of Espoo Culture Committee’s decision still applies, limiting the number of free printouts to 20 per customer per day.
Printing services for all
When the city library decided to eliminate charges years ago, the idea was to ensure that everyone has access to printing services and that the printing charge, EUR 0.40 per printout at the time, would not prevent individuals with a low income or experiencing social exclusion from filling in forms and remaining part of society. Thus, the Culture Committee decided that the library would eliminate printing charges and, based on this decision, we are still not able to charge for printing. This is inconvenient for some customers who need more than 20 printouts. They would be willing to pay for printing but our libraries are not able to help them.
Wasted printing, a wasted future?
Why do we need to have limitations? Why can everyone not print what they want and as many pages as they want? There are many reasons, but the budget and environmental factors are high up on the list. Printing is currently one of the biggest expenditure items in the library budget, after personnel, rental and material costs. In fact, printing amounts to 12.5% of the material costs – in other words, without printing, libraries could offer 12.5% more material. Unfortunately, a large number of printouts end up being thrown away immediately, and people print many pages without even considering if they actually need them.
Limitations and fairness
Unfortunately, it has been practically impossible to monitor the daily limit of 20 free printouts. Some customers have found easy ways to avoid this limitation, while others have followed the rule. This puts our customers in unequal positions. Furthermore, another thing that creates inequality among our customers is the ease of printing. Our libraries have to make sure that everyone is able to use their services, including printing, both with and without the help of the staff, for example during the self-service hours. Therefore, the system needs to be easy to use.
Ensuring data protection
Secure printing, a common feature at workplaces, has been a major weakness in the old system. It has not been possible for customers to make sure that no one sees or, worse still, takes their printouts. This serious shortcoming will be fixed through the new printing solution, irrespective of which solution is selected.
Two pilot projects and a customer survey
We have been offered two different solutions: Toshiba’s PaperCut and Princh by a company of the same name. They are piloted at Entresse Library. Both printing solutions take account of data protection. Users do not need to log in, which ensures their anonymity. In the future, customers will also be able to print documents using their own mobile devices. PaperCut enables this through email, while Princh uses a mobile app.
We have created a survey to find out our customers’ positive and negative opinions regarding these printing solutions and how they feel about the idea of introducing a printing charge. If we were able to close the loopholes in the printing limitation by introducing a small charge, for example EUR 0.10 per printout, and at the same time obtain a user-friendly system, it is worth considering. Perhaps a small charge would make customers value their printouts more. We will make a decision on the printing system during the spring based on the customer feedback.
Our most important aim is to find a solution that is secure and user-friendly. Would customers be willing to accept a charge if it means that we could introduce a printing solution that ensures a high level of data protection and equality and is easy to use, even for senior citizens and those not familiar with technical systems? It would be a bonus if we could help save our planet by reducing the amount of printing and libraries could allocate more man-years to other digital support besides printing assistance.