Many specialized libraries exist serving closed user groups such as LEGAL firms, AUDITING firms and higher EDUCATIONAL institutions. One of the attributes that all of these specialized libraries have in common is the requirement for the libraries to operate “unmanned” and outside of normal office hours. Users are normally operating under extreme pressure and as a result returns are often delayed or non-existant. Often access to specific books is vital, such as when briefs are being prepared in legal firms.
Attempting to circumvent this problem by stocking additional copies of specific books has the following problems:
- The original borrower may be disorganized enough to keep taking out another copy rather than attempting to find the copy originally borrowed (even if the fact that a another copy was previously borrowed is remembered),
- The cost of additional copies can be considerable,
- Additional copies may simply be un-obtainable, especially in the case of older books,
- User offices may become cluttered with valuable books that are best back in the library,
- Costing of the library as a resource and “cost centre” can be all but impossible.
The solution we offer is a library that is completely unmanned during off hours but completely accessible to its users on a 24/7 basis (or any other basis decided on by management). Such a library will use RFID tags embedded in the books and RFID scanners at library exits and return points together with linkage to the office access system to enable linkage of the book taken with the user name. Optionally, readers at building access points will enable the system to record volumes removed off-site. Audits (stock take) will be facilitated by the use of mobile Rack Readers enabling inventories to be done on an entire shelf within seconds, without a book needing to be taken off the shelf. One of the most important aspects of a RFID based library system is that the individual volume is identified and not the generic title. Linkage to the office access system can have the additional benefit of ensuring that the borrower in not able to leave the library without registering the book loan on the system (this, off course, must be handled with sensitivity and a best-of-practice approach may involve resistering the book loan at the point of exit from the library).
RFID has many applications in libraries. There is no need to open a book cover or DVD case to scan an item, also, as RF Tags can be read while in motion, using RFID readers to check-in returned items while on a conveyor belt reduces staff time.