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Hamburg Library Moves to RFID

The city's central library and 17 branches will start deploying a system to manage the circulation of 2 million items per year. Patrons will check materials in and out themselves.
By Rhea Wessel
Sep 20, 2006Starting in October, public libraries in Hamburg, Germany, will begin implementing an RFID-based system for checking materials in and out. The system will be provided by the Danish division of U.K. company FKI Logistex.

FKI Logistex won the contract and a 10-year support agreement in a public tender from the city's public library system, Hamburger Öffentliche Bücherhallen (HÖB). The firm's Library Mate self-serve check-in and checkout kiosks will be deployed in Hamburg's central library and 17 city branches, where about 2 million items are circulated each year. The rollout will start with the branches, then move to the central library in April 2007. FKI Logistex expects to finish it next summer. The system will become operational some time after it is fully deployed.

FKI Logistex's Library Mate self-serve kiosk.
Patrons and staff at Hamburg's libraries will benefit from faster check-in and checkout times, more accurate holding information and a better theft-control system, FKI states. The new RFID application will completely replace the libraries' current tracking system, which is based on bar codes.

FKI Logistex's system will use passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags to identify and sort such library materials as books, magazines and DVDs. At the main branch, patrons will have a choice of seven self-serve stations where they can check out materials they want to borrow, as well as four stations where they can check in materials they have finished using. The 17 library branches will each be equipped with one self-serve kiosk for both check-in and checkouts, but no sorting function.

At the branches' self-serve kiosks, all of which are handicap-enabled, patrons will place materials on a hip-high desk about 80 square centimeters in size. An RFID interrogator (reader) mounted underneath the desk will read the unique identification number stored on each passive 13.56 MHz tag. When items are returned, the computer system will confirm that they belong to the Hamburg library, and that all returns are complete. A confirmation message will then pop up on the touch screen in front of the customer, and a receipt will be printed.

When the interrogator reads a returned item's RFID transponder, this will automatically activate an antitheft protection system. Thus, if someone tries to leave the library with item not checked out, its tag will send an alert to the exit gate. As part of the project, FKI Logistics is providing security gates for library exits.

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