What does the Pendlebury Library have in common with Coldplay, international air travel and the escalators on the Central Line? The answer is that we’re bringing in Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) to improve your experience of using our services!
A spectacular example of RFID in action at Coldplay’s 2012 concert at the Emirates Stadium, where ticket holders were given ‘Xylobands’ – LED-illuminated wristbands activated using a radio signal.
The recent changes around the Library are not quite as flamboyant as this, but anyone who has borrowed a book in the past few months may already be aware of extra paraphanalia at the issue desk. You might have noticed the ‘items in transit’ signs and even heard mysterious beeping amongst the shelves as we have been tagging our stock. All this preparation is to enable the introduction of self-issuing by the end of the year.
At the moment, our automated circulation system recognises most Library items when the barcodes stuck to the covers are scanned individually. Under the new system, information identifying a book or score is now stored in a tag fixed to each item. The RFID issue pad emits a radio signal that searches for these tags. When one comes within range, the signal hits it, ‘awakens’ the tag, and provides the power for the tag to respond with the required information. This means there is no need for a ‘line-of-sight’ scanner, and several books can be checked out instantly by placing them in a stack on the issue pad. This pad also controls security settings, so you will be able to leave the library faster without your issued books setting off the alarm.
RFID technology has been in use since World War II, when it was employed in a basic form to track aircraft. Now incredibly refined, it can be found in almost every aspect of modern life, and is the subject of research and development at universities around the world. RFID tracks items many times faster than a barcode, and also has a higher accuracy rate – good news for libraries that need to know exactly where to find things!
The barcodes and scanners won’t be disappearing from the Pendlebury altogether, as we will continue to issue audio-visual items and unbound music with six or more parts at the desk.
Self-issue may not be quite as rock and roll as a stadium light show, but it might just give you a few extra minutes to browse books for your essay, to grab a coffee before your lecture, or to come and chat to the library staff!