Munich Libraries Add New Readers

Beginning in 2006, all public libraries in Munich, Germany, will begin replacing the bar code and electromagnetic security label system currently used for managing and tracking their collections with a new passive RFID system. The project, which will take three years to complete and cost €3 million, is reportedly set to be the largest European RFID library project to date. Roughly 1.5 million items, including books, magazines and audio/video items, will be fitted with RFID tags. The Main Munich Library and two district libraries at West End and Pasing will be the first branches equipped with RFID tags and a range of readers (interrogators). Another 23 district libraries will deploy the complete RFID system by 2009.

According to the library, using RFID will enable it to cope with rising library usage. More than 49,000 items are checked out every day in the Munich libraries, up 13.3 percent from last year. The libraries also recorded close to five million visits. With the RFID system, several items can be checked out or returned at once, instead of individually. In addition, library patrons will be able to use self-checkout stations and 24-hour automatic book returns.

Bibliotheca’s Christian Kern

“As the number of loans has increased, there are growing queues. Deploying RFID [at the Munich public libraries] is about improving customer service,” says Christian Kern, head of system development at Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems AG, the company supplying the tags, interrogators and software for the deployment.

Each Munich library will feature BiblioSelfCheck stations to enable patrons to check out items. The libraries will also have RFID Staff Stations equipped with BiblioPads, which employees can use to assist with checking items in and out, as well as to program new additions to the library. Patrons will enter and leave the library through a BiblioGate, which will monitor whether items have been checked out, while BiblioReturn readers will automate book returns and sorting.

The Main Library will have four BiblioSelfCheck stations, with two each provided to district libraries. The number of interrogators for the rest of the deployment has yet to be finalized, according to Bibliotheca.

The Bibliotheca RFID Library System uses 13.56 MHz tags developed using Philips ICode ICS chips. Books and magazines will be tagged with one tag design; audio/visual media, such as CDs and DVDs, will use a different tag intended to work with the metal in the discs.

In order to convert the libraries’ collection to the new RFID system, a tag will be added to each item. To prepare a book, for example, an adhesive tag will be placed on the inside back cover. Then it will be placed on the BiblioPad reader so that the catalog number can be written to it using Bibliotheca software.

According to the manufacturer, no date has yet been set for completion of the Main Library’s conversion to the new RFID system. “It is a large and complex building with a lot of items,” says Kern, and it will take roughly four weeks to convert each district library.