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RFID-Enabled Vending Machine Brings Automation, Security to Library Disk Loans

Coyle Free Library is an early adopter of an RFID-based system known as the Library Media Box, from RTI, which offers automated borrowing of movies and games, while tags on books, laptops and other media, as well as portals at the door, ensure that library property is checked out before leaving the premises.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 09, 2017

When Franklin County's Coyle Free Library, in Chambersburg, Pa., opens the doors of its renovated facility next month, it will feature two high-frequency (HF) RFID-enabled vending machines to check out or rent DVDs and CDs to patrons as part of a full solution to automate circulation and security. The RFID technology deployment is intended to reduce some of the more mundane tasks of employees so that they can spend more time helping patrons, says Denice M. Bigham, Coyle Free Library's director and the Franklin County Library System's director of library services.

The library system will initially consist of UHF RFID tags affixed to most of the library's books and disks, in addition to RFID readers at three separate doors. The disk vending machines come with their own built-n RFID readers.

Coyle Free Library
The vending machine, the tagging of CDs and DVDs, and the software to share that data with the integrated library system (ILS) are supplied by Public Information Kiosk, a subsidiary of RTI Group. RTI's PIK Library Media Box vending machines each store and dispense up to 750 titles and identify which items they contain, as well as where they are located, via RFID tags on the movies or video games, and readers and antennas built into each unit. One unit allows patrons to check out disks free of charge, while the other, featuring more recent and on-demand titles, charges $1 plus tax for each two-day rental.

Coyle Library, part of the Franklin County Library System, is located in the former Chambersburg post office. The library offers 70,000 books and other media, and has been growing. When it comes to movie and game loans, the library stores bar-code-tagged empty cases. A patron can remove a particular case off the shelf and bring it to the desk, and staff members will then proceed to another shelf to retrieve the disk and place it in the case before checking it out to that individual.

This year, the library planned to extensively renovate and expand the building by adding 10,000 square feet of space. In order to accommodate that growth, Bigham explains, it has temporarily moved to another location until the renovation is complete. During the planning, she says, "Our staff sat down and thought we'd look at what is out there in technology to help free up staff time so they could use that time to help patrons." One technology that interested the library was RedBox, which rents movies via vending machines. With the goal of providing similar services to its patrons, the library approached RTI.

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