Friday, January 23, 2015

Tagging the Collection

I will often tell people that the staff is busy getting ready to move. I can tell by the look on their faces that “move” to them means packing boxes and carting those boxes off to the new library. What it does mean these days is that the staff is tagging the collection. Many of you already know the new library will have an automated check-in and sorting system on the first and third floors. It is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology that allows this sorting to take place. RFID technology enables staff to know if a book is checked out or simply lost in the building. There will be gates on the first floor at the Wayne Street and Fenton Street entrances. Those gates will alarm if someone has forgotten to check out. Should this happen we will invite them to return to the self-checkout station. 

The check-in process is totally automated. The RFID tags are attached to the book, DVD or other piece of material and placed on a pad connected to a PC. The bar code on the items and the tag are linked together and entered into the computer. The books are returned through an opening where they are put on a conveyor belt, checked –in by a computer and sorted into a tub for shelving.  

The 2” x 2” tag is a small but important feature of RFID. For the first shipment we received 100,000 tags. Forty-thousand were sent to the processor for the opening day collection. The other 60,000 were left with us to put in each piece of library materials. We started in early summer and we have 3,000 left from the original shipment to apply to materials. We recently received another shipment of 40,000 tags and are busy getting ready to apply those tags.

It is a tedious job that takes time. Volunteers cut the tags and staff places the tags in materials. We have boxes of cut tags stored in the manager’s office. Right now we count the number of tags that we place in materials just to give us a count of the collection and see how closely that mirrors what we know to be the size of the collection. But the beauty is you will now be able to checkout more efficiently by simply placing a stack of books, up to fifty, on the pad and they will be checked-out instantly.   

While there is always an adjustment period, once customers and staff become acclimated to this technology, I predict we will enjoy the many benefits it offers.

Fran Ware
fran.ware@montgomerycountymd.gov

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