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What Impact Does RFID Have on Libraries?
How are librarians currently utilizing the technology to their advantage?
Radio frequency identification can have a significant impact on library operations. Typically, libraries tag all books, CDs, DVDs and other media with a passive high-frequency (HF) transponder; a few libraries have used ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID, but most employ HF technology. Readers are installed at exits, in return bins and at checkout counters. In addition, libraries often deploy a self-service kiosk and handheld readers for performing inventory counts of items on shelves.
Software links the serial number on the passive HF transponder to a specific book, and information is fed automatically into the existing library-management system. For example, someone picks up a book and brings it to the checkout counter. The RFID transponder is read automatically as soon as the book is placed within the read zone. That person swipes his or her library card, or places it near the reader if the library cards use RFID, and the system associates that patron with that book. This saves a little time during the checkout process.
Another big benefit is self-checkout. The person places the book on a kiosk, and the book is automatically identified. The person swipes his or her library card and can then leave. The readers at the gate interrogate the tag. The software quickly checks the database and knows the book was checked out, and no alarm sounds. If someone walks out without remembering to check the book out, however, the alarm will be triggered.
When books are placed in the return bin, their tags are read automatically and the system updates their status to "returned," so that they are available for immediate checkout. What's more, librarians can quickly take inventory of all books and locate misplaced books via a handheld reader. The system saves librarians hours of time each week otherwise spent on mundane tasks, enabling them to spend more time helping patrons find books, conduct research and enjoy the libraries' riches.
You can read about a number of library applications for RFID here.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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