Perhaps the worst enemy of library books is homo sapiens—the ones who mischievously swipe books out of circulation. The earliest collection management remedy was a security guard at the gate, but guards eventually gave way to 3M’s “Tattle-Tape” magnetic system in the 1970s.
But in Carnegie Library, SU is making a leap to the 21st century with a new radio frequency identification (RFID) system from Bibliotheca that gives library staff an eagle-eye view of where all books are at all times, what order they’re in, and perhaps most importantly, whether they’ve been checked out. No more will librarians waste time searching the library for items that simply aren’t there. Librarians will suffer far less from the repetitive stress injuries resulting from checking books in and out hundreds of times per day. There will be fewer false alarms at security gates. And organizing carts of volumes for re-shelving will be much easier and more precise.
After a thorough review of RFID systems, SU chose Bibliotheca mainly because its users are happier than those of other vendors. Even customers of Bibliotheca’s competitors said they were thinking of switching. A secondary reason is that Bibliotheca controls the manufacturing of every component within its system, removing all confusion about who is responsible if a problem arises. When problems do arise, Bibliotheca will handle them quickly and professionally.
Installing such a system isn’t simple by any means. Its components include RFID tags, a RFID reader, a barcode reader, a staff workstation, new security gates, self-checkout stations, and a PC loaded with the software to integrate all the new hardware, connect it with central Library software, and capture important metrics. The most labor-intensive part of the installation is equipping every last book in the library with a RFID tag, a three-month task that will require four temporary workers just for all the volumes in Carnegie.
But in exchange for the Library’s hard work, users will enjoy several benefits. First, the new Bibliotheca self-checkout system will allow patrons to take 10 items at a time instead of just one, a much faster process that gives library staff more time to serve patrons in other ways. Second, there will be far fewer false alarms than from the existing, decades-old magnetic gate system. Third, books will be shelved faster, and when a book is placed in the wrong slot, library staff will know about it and quickly correct it. And although the RFID tags cannot themselves stop theft outright, they allow library staff to know in real-time which books are checked out and which are stolen, and items known to be stolen can be replaced faster than before.
The Library will begin the three-month task of creating and attaching RFID tags in late February. During the tagging process, Carnegie will continue using the Tattle-Tape security system. Once circulation is relocated to the second floor of the building, the Tattle-Tape will no longer be activated and the collection will be secured solely with RFID.
Modernizing Carnegie Library is hard work, but for both staff and patrons, Bibliotheca should be worth the effort and patience.
Article by: George ClarkeContact Information: ITS Service Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, (315) 443-2677
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