published Thursday, July 24th, 2014

New Cleveland Bradley County Public Library RFID checkout coming next month

  • photo
    Volunteer Tatiana Kotok attaches radio frequency identification tags to DVDs and scans them into Cleveland Bradley County Public Library's inventory system using a mobile label reader device.
    Photo by Paul Leach.
    enlarge photo

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland Bradley County Public Library expects to roll out new self-checkout stations in mid-August that will reduce wait times for its patrons.

In a recent meeting, the library's board of trustees discussed the facility's transition to an inventory system based on radio frequency identification technology, commonly used in "fast pass" gas pump payment devices and anti-theft systems at mall stores.

"It will make a real difference to patrons regarding checkouts, and it will be so much easier for staff to keep up with materials," said John Hagler, chairman of the library board.

The new self-checkout stations are expected to ship in late July or early August, library director Andrew Hunt said.

The stations, which are capable of reading between three and five RFID-tagged items at a time, will be a "benefit to our patrons and library staff," Hunt said. The library's current checkout stations can read only one item at a time.

Plans calls for two self-checkout kiosks to be located in the lobby with another station placed in the children's section, according to a previous board discussion.

The library will help the public as part of the transition process, offering a "concierge service" as a way to help patrons become familiar with the devices, Hunt said.

Staff members will be issued iPads with the ability to check out patron materials, if necessary, he said.

"I could check you out with my iPhone right now," Hunt told library trustees.

However, it is not just a simple matter of receiving and placing new machines to implement the new system. All of the library's materials must be tagged to be used with the new self-checkout kiosks.

For the self-checkout stations to scan an item, it must be tagged with a small antenna device that stores information now associated with the barcode stickers that are already on the items.

An RFID sticker contains only information associated with a particular book, DVD or other item, Hunt said. The RFID tags do not record or transmit patron information.

The project is on target as far as tagging materials, he said.

It has been a massive undertaking, requiring the efforts of regular staff, volunteers and temporary staff to take on most of the library's collection over the summer, Hunt said.

By increasing the number of patrons who use self-checkout stations, library staff will have more time for "other meaningful patron interaction," Hunt has said.

It is the library's goal to encourage up to 75 percent of its patrons to engage the new self-checkout kiosks, he said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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