The Garland County Library has upgraded to a radio frequency identification system, or RFID, which will assist with collection management, allow for faster customer service, and provide patrons an opportunity to use self-check stations.
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This new system is both for materials identification and security, according to a news release. All library materials are tagged with a RFID microchip that communicates with the library’s collection and security system. Tags are switched off when items are checked out to allow passage through the library’s security gates.
RFID readers have also been installed at the circulation desk and self-check stations and are able to read multiple tags simultaneously for quicker circulation and customer service.
Adam Webb, the library’s assistant director, said the new RFID system, which launched Thursday, has already made an impact on the library.
“One big thing this has done is it’s allowed us to open up the front entrance,” he said. “Before, we kind of funneled patrons through cattle gates, but with the RFID our entrance is more open with these beautiful new gates.
“It helps with inventory when we’re out in the stacks. We haven’t gotten to this part of it yet, but you can use a wand and find if a book is out of place or missing, or if it’s currently checked out.”
Webb said because the RFID system allows for checking multiple books out at a time, it will make for more productivity and more meaningful interactions between staff and patrons.
“This helps in freeing up our staff to have more meaningful interactions with our patrons,” he said. “Being a single location library in a large county like ours, this will free up our staff members to go out and do more in the community.
“We have tag readers at each of the staff stations as well as our self-check stations, which is great because we have a lot of patrons who like to come up and talk to our clerks. I would put our clerks up against the best customer service in the country. People like to come up and ask for book recommendations or what movie they should watch next, so by having tag readers throughout, patrons who are in a hurry can check out quickly and staff can interact more with patrons, as well.”
Webb said RFID has been an established technology among libraries of similar size for several years, and Garland County Library’s IT Manager Adam Beck had prior experience with the technology in Little Rock. Webb said Beck previously advised against switching to the system when he joined the Garland County team seven years ago. However, a demonstration of new technology last year showed the improvements would be worth the upgrade.
“The transition was mostly tedious because we had to retag over 160,000 items,” Webb said. “We’ve been doing that since October and it’s taken about four months to do, just as items were checked back in we had to retag them.”
According to the release, the library discontinued the use of due date cards for checked out materials, instead adding due dates on printed or emailed receipts following each transaction. Patrons may also download the library’s new mobile app to view checkouts and due dates, renew items, search the catalog, explore online resources, and more.
The patron’s account bar code is available on the app and can supplement or replace a physical library card. Simply present the bar code as pictured on the app at checkout.