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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

Disks that are not stored in the Media Box are also protected by the RFID system, since the readers interrogate their RFID tags as they are removed. If the library-management software determines that an item has not been checked out properly, an alert will be triggered.

The machines serve as one part of the larger Bibliotheca integrated solution, featuring RFID tagging of all materials, the three security gate RFID readers and four self-checkout desktop readers, along with Bibliotheca software integrated with the ILS to provide personnel and patrons with automated data for check-outs, returns and other functions.

The library is also offering laptops to card holders, which they must keep on the premises. An individual can unlock the laptop cabinet via a bar-code scan of his or her library card. The computer's RFID tag and the door's reader will sound an alert in the event that a laptop leaves the facility.

Several libraries across North America have deployed the Media Box RFID-enabled units, Goodman says, including Stark County Public Library, in Ohio. Many are upgrading from an earlier non-RFID version of the kiosk to the latest model, which comes in four sizes: a 750-title single cabinet, a 1,500-title double cabinet, a 2,250-title triple cabinet and a 3,000-title cabinet. A glass front enables users to watch the robotics in use during the title-selection process.

In the future, Goodman predicts, libraries may transition to RFID- or Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled library cards for circulation purposes, as well as enabling the use of NFC readers built into patrons' smartphones. Once the system is taken live at Coyle Free Library, Bigham expects it to save time for the staff, and to make the borrowing of disks faster and easier for visitors. She estimates that 20 to 30 transactions related to popular disk checkouts occur daily, as well as other disks not available in the machines.

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