SCISConnections

Four functions in one label

At Geelong Grammar School, operating the library has suddenly become a whole lot easier.

The Radio Frequency Identification system (RFID) recently installed at the school’s Fisher Library has been a wonderful success.

Designed, built and installed by a local Geelong company, and featuring a unique, patented single tag system, it has dramatically reduced the time, resources and costs involved not only in making books shelf-ready, but in managing the entire checking-in, checking-out and stocktaking processes, as well as the option from the kiosk to renew items.

A single tag brings together four separate administrative functions into one easy-to-use application, a world-first technology. This labelling system goes beyond anything currently available. It provides a novel and innovative means of addressing RFID technology through the use of four identifying methods combined into a single tagging product designed to camouflage the RFID tag embedded in the unique colour-coded spine label. Other products on the market do not try and disguise the RFID tag, making it easy to remove.

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The coloured spine labels display the call number, and contain
barcode, library identification and asset number

The single-tag system consists of a single label placed on the back cover of a book listing the Dewey Decimal code, barcode, library identification and asset number.

We can do more reporting because of the extra information that is stored on the tags. Accelerated identification and scanning of products is possible – almost any library item can be tagged – and no line-of-sight is needed for the tag to be recorded. The system allows checking-in and out of several items simultaneously.But it’s the system’s stocktaking capabilities that have really excited library staff. With its ease-of-reading tags communicating information to the central database, the system not only provides instant shelf stock details, but also highlights books that are in the wrong place. It now takes one person less than half a day to do a full stocktake of 50,000 assets! Previously, that process would probably have required about a month, and would have involved multiple staff members.

The system, customised for Geelong Grammar’s needs, comprises a counter station, self check-in/check-out kiosk, hand­held barcode reader and anti-theft gates.

The counter station delivers a staff loan device providing easy and efficient library loan counter operations. The RFID pad, which is both a reader and writer, connects to the library’s existing computer system. The pad transmits data to the library management system (LMS) using SIP2 protocol. It can be used both as a loan device and as a book-ready device. Multiple reads are possible.

The self check-out kiosk – with its touch screen, RFID pad, built-in CPU and thermal printer – enables a speedy and efficient checking-out system, freeing library staff from desk duty processes. The system software interfaces with the kiosk touch screen, thermal printer, barcode reader and RFID pad. All data is visible onscreen during a transaction, including return dates. Library terms, conditions and rules are automatically applied, and patron-specific messages (eg ‘hold books’) are displayed on recognition.

Installation of the hardware was seamless and very quick, and the software was streamlined to assist workflow to apply tags during implementation. The library was able to carry out the integration while the library was open, and staff managed to tag all 50,000 books in five weeks. It had been expected to take two months at least.

Total implementation of the RFID system was efficient and thorough, and it has proved to be a highly cost-effective investment in the school’s library infrastructure by streamlining the huge amount of data associated with the library’s operation, and minimising the time spent managing it.

Staff and students alike found the system user-friendly. We had initial training assistance from the supply company and have easily been able to train other staff. All systems have been very straightforward – it’s been amazing. We no longer have to be concerned about barcodes, labels, due date slips, security slips, spine labels or collection code stickers. The all-in-one tag means three to four times less work for staff.

The library staff has had a major input into the project, validating the concept, advising the supply company regarding the use of RFID in libraries internationally, and adding to their knowledge regarding processes, areas for improvement and world’s best library practice.

The reduction in staff time and associated increases in efficiency and productivity mean that this system will pay for itself many times over in a short period of time.  

Fran Walsh
Head of Library Services
Geelong Grammar
franceswa@ggs.vic.edu.au

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An easy-to-use self check-out kiosk

Geelong Grammar’s Fisher Library staff: Fran Walsh,
Lee Allen, Vivienne Harvie, Tomoko Katakura