Great Changes at The City Library!
The way our community uses The City Library has changed significantly over the past few years. Patrons are accessing eBooks from home, asking for training courses on new technology, requesting help with using online tools, and demanding access to library resources wherever they are. In order to ensure the Library's people and services are available whenever they're needed, we are implementing new technologies that will enable us to work smarter and focus more staff time on providing you with the best possible service.
As we've implemented these new and improved technologies, here's a snapshot of what to expect as you encounter the changes:
New Self-Service Capabilities
Self-checkout stations have now been installed at all six branch locations, as well as automated check-in material sorting systems at three branches.
For patrons using self-checkout, there will be a marked improvement in the checkout experience. Self-checkout uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to allow patrons to quickly and easily check out all of their materials themselves. You will not have to carefully place materials within a designated template and you will be able to checkout several items at the same time. The RFID tags can be read regardless of item orientation or alignment (i.e., the technology does not require line-of-sight or a fixed plane to read tags, as some older technologies do), allowing several items in a stack to be read simultaneously. Self-checkout stations will allow patrons to pay fines via credit card or cash, check their account information, and print or email their receipt. Self-checkout also provides patrons with greater privacy.
Both the self-checkout stations and the material sorting systems (also RFID-enabled) will automate some of the most inefficient work tasks currently being done by hand, providing cost savings to taxpayers. Additional staff-member time will be freed up so that they can focus their attention where it matters most: serving our community.
Curious about what self-checkout looks like? Watch this video:
Sorters (Automated Material Handling)
We are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time on material sorting. It takes a lot of time and effort, as well as passing through many hands, to sort returned materials (in order to get the books, DVDs, and music back on shelves and ready for you to enjoy), process inter-library transfers, and fetch materials to be placed on hold.
In order to alleviate the most labor-intensive part of this process, we've installed automated sorter machines to help our staff check-in your materials quickly and ensure that they get where they need to go automatically. As your materials pass through the sorter, they will check in immediately, greatly reducing the lag time between when you drop your materials off and when they are removed from your account.
A large sorting machine has been installed at the Main Library, and two smaller sorters have been installed at the Day-Riverside Branch and Anderson-Foothill Branch. These are custom-built sorters, but check out this video to get an idea of what's been installed.
Self-Service effect on Library Staffing Levels
Watching the sorter do its work is a fun experience, but this equipment is not simply a showpiece; it is critical to helping the Library staff do their jobs more efficiently, freeing up more time for them to assist patrons directly. The City Library will not be eliminating any staff positions as a result of this new technology. In fact, in order for the Library to maintain current staffing levels and prevent future budget shortfalls, it is essential that we implement this new infrastructure. These self-service options will allow us to maintain current levels of personnel expenditures in the long run by removing inefficiencies in the current process, allowing for the staffing of the new Glendale and Marmalade Branch Libraries opening in 2014, and creating new economies of scale.
The City Library's all-new catalog is now live! Login now to start exploring. Be aware that your account PIN number has been reset to a default value (the last four digits of the phone number on the account), but can be changed online once you've logged in to your library account.
The new Patron Access Catalog (PAC) provider, Polaris, gives our library system the functionality we need while simultaneously cutting costs compared to the previous catalog provider. However, as a result of the catalog migration, please note that your reviews and contributions made via Bibliocommons are no longer available. Furthermore, copies of your Shelves, Lists, and Recently Returned lists from within Bibliocommons were not able to be transferred. The new catalog includes book details, synopsis, series lists, and cover art populated from syndicated sources, and book reviews and suggested readings populated from and integrated with your Goodreads account.
New Apple/Android Mobile App
The iOS/Android App was taken out of service in mid-August along with the previous catalog. The App will be replaced in the coming weeks, and will mirror much of the functionality of the new catalog as experienced via the website.
Additional Information about RFID Technology
RFID is a combination of radio-frequency-based technology and microchip technology. The information contained on microchips in the tags affixed to library materials is read using radio frequency technology. A reader (aka sensor, scanner, or interrogator) looks for antennae on the tags and retrieves information from the microchips through them.
RFID technology is intended to speed the process of staff checkouts and check-ins, simplify and speed patron self-checkout, support electronic inventorying and shelf searching, and interface with materials handling systems.
The use of RFID reduces the amount of time required to perform circulation operations. The tags can be read regardless of item orientation or alignment (i.e., the technology does not require line-of-sight or a fixed plane to read tags, as some older technologies do), allowing several items in a stack to be read at the same time.
Interface with Materials Handling Systems
Another application of RFID technology is to interface with an automated material handling (AMH) system, a system that consists of conveyors and sorting equipment that can move library materials and sort them mechanically by category into separate bins or onto separate carts. This significantly reduces the amount of staff time required to ready materials for reshelving.
The RFID bookdrop reader will automatically check in returned library materials and reactivate anti-theft security. This reader interfaces directly with the materials handling system, which includes many conveyors and sorters. The sorters separate out the returned materials into bins specified for reshelving, holds, inter-branch transfers, and interlibrary loans. Once the materials are in the corresponding bin for reshelving, they can go directly back onto the shelves since they have already been checked-in.
The City Library's RFID & Patron Privacy
Please note that patron information is not stored on the RFID tags in library materials. Also, the type of RFID tag in the Library's materials cannot be read from a distance, nor can the readers used in libraries read RFID information from a distance. All of the tags used in RFID technology for libraries are "passive," meaning the power to read the tags comes from the reader or exit sensor, rather than from a battery within the tag. "Active" tags, which have their own power supply, are substantially larger and more expensive than the tags used in The City Library's RFID application. It is these active tags that can be read at distances of ten or more feet. Warehouse pallet inventory and EZPass tags are examples of active tags.
The City Library's RFID & Implanted Medical Devices
3M Library Systems (the manufacturer of our particular RFID scanners) emit low-level electromagnetic (EM) fields that induce a specific response from the RFID tags. Independent testing organizations and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have investigated the interaction of electromagnetic library RFID detection systems with implanted medical devices, and have found no interactions involving cardiac pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators with RFID systems. Most modern implanted medical devices are designed to include built-in safeguards against interference from magnetic fields. Some of these safeguards include passive- or active-shielding, magnetically-isolated medical devices (completely unaffected by magnetic fields), or sophisticated electronic control circuitry that negates any effect. Specific safeguards vary by implanted device and manufacturer. Questions concerning a specific implanted device should be directed to your physician or to the device manufacturer.
Each razor-thin RFID tag contains an etched antenna and a microchip. The type of tag used by The City Library, "Read/Write," was chosen because they can have information changed or added. In library RFID tags, it is common to have part of the read/write tag secured against rewriting (e.g., the unique identification number of the item), and part of the tag available for rewriting (e.g., an identification code for each branch that could be changed if the holding location subsequently changed). The tags usually have a capacity of at least 1024 bits. A minimum capacity of 1024 bits is required for storing enough information about the item for the tags to be used in electronic inventorying and with the materials handling system. An RFID tag can also function much like an Electromagnetic or Radio Frequency anti-theft tag if the vendor includes a "theft" bit that can be turned on and off as items are checked out or checked in.
AV Material Tags
The previous tagging method affixed an adhesive tag to the clear inner hub of CDs and DVDs. This tag interfered with proper playback on some devices. The City Library has implemented a new set of tags (3M StingRay full-disc tags) that are designed to ensure compatibility with all CD/DVD players.
Further Reading about Library RFID
Richard W. Boss, RFID Technology for Libraries, Chicago, IL: ALA, 2011