Library Consortium Feasibility Analysis and Procurement for Central Automated Materials Handling

Peninsula Library System (PLS) is a consortium of nine libraries providing. PLS hosts a shared integrated library system (Sierra) and provides delivery services to 41 locations daily. PLS asked Lori Ayre to provide a feasibility analysis for implementing an automated materials handling system to replace the manual sorting done by couriers.  

Ayre evaluated the delivery volume, materials movement patterns, courier sorting, presorting done at the libraries, delivery turnaround times, and other aspects of the operation.  She provided the PLS Council with several options for consideration including adding a smaller sorter that would operate two waves of sorting, a larger sorter for sorting all material in one wave, providing batch check-in of incoming deliveries at the libraries, and adding an additional delivery day on the weekends.

Library RFID and AMH Consultation and Procurement

In November of 2014, Charleston county residents passed a $108.5 million referen-dum to address the Library’s building and technological deficiencies. The Library then sought the services of an architectural/engineering firm to develop a program guide manual for the subsequent Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) Capital Improve-ment Project (CIP) that would affect all 16 outlets of the CCPL system. Lori Ayre of The Galecia Group was included in the proposal submitted by McMillan Pazdan Smith to provide guidance related to RFID, automated materials handling, and workflow optimization. 

The CIP project includes building five new library buildings as well as a new Operations Center. In addition, virtually every one of the other branches would be remodeled. The scope of the original engagement included developing guide specifications for certain building systems including security, access, A-V, RFID and product standards for other library items. 

Once the program guide had been completed, Ayre was hired by Charleston County in order to assist the County in finalizing RFID and AMH product specifications and help-  ing the staff to re-envision how service delivery could be changed with the help of self-service and materials handling technologies. Ayre also developed the scope of services that would be used to identify suitable AMH and RFID vendors.

Library Consortium RFID and Automated Materials Handling Consultation

Libraries in Clackamas County (LINCC) provides services to 13 independent partner libraries in Clackamas County.  Primary services include a shared library system and courier services. As a result of our work with LINCC, the libraries now also share RFID self-service and materials handling equipment and LINCC staff manage these systems centrally. 

The Galecia Group worked with LINCC to assess the materials handling processes and facilities at all member library locations as well as courier operations at LINCC headquarters. We then facilitated a decision-making process and provided consulting to consortium staff as they planned the procurement, provisioning and implementation of the new systems.

Library RFID and Self-Service Consultation

Assisted the Library in evaluating opportunities for implementing RFID and self-service technologies. Engagement includes developing procurement and implementation strategy and facilitating procurement process from RFP development to contract negotiation.  Originally planned to include automated materials handling as part of the procurement but these plans were delayed due to plans related to library remodel and/or new building.

The Library is currently using Innovative Interface's Express Lane for self-check and will be comparing the benefits of adding RFID to their existing Express Lane systems versus moving to self-check systems provided by the RFID vendor.

Liberated from the Circulation Desk - Now What?

I’ve been involved in several library remodels and building projects lately for public libraries in the 15,000-30,000 square foot range. My job is to help select self-check systems, and to implement RFID and automated materials handling technologies for the purposes of optimizing materials handling workflows.  However, optimizing materials handling workflows is really about optimizing services to patrons.  Selecting technologies and making recommendations about how to optimize their use is the easy part.  The harder part is helping libraries transition from their traditional staff-based circulation workflows to self-service workflows which free up staff to focus on other patron needs without the constraints, and structure, provided by the traditional circulation desk model.

Traditionally, the circulation desk is the first thing you see as you enter the library. The staff at the circulation desk are not generally librarians although I’m pretty sure the public considers everyone at the library a “librarian.”  So when the patron enters the library, what they encounter is someone working hard to get through a big pile of library material. There might even be a long line of people waiting to check-out their material. Maybe the staff person looks up when the patron enters, maybe not.

Library Materials Handling, RFID, and AMH Consultation

Wide range of consulting services related to RFID and automated materials handling including analysis of 33 of the Library’s 37 outlets, recommendations for AMH configurations at each location as well as identification of impediments to using AMH or RFID, cost-benefit analyses, market analysis of RFID and AMH vendors, case studies demonstrating best practices, and presentation of findings from study and recommendations.

Library Materials Handling Consultation

Huntington Beach had an old conveyor system for moving books from one part of the Library to another. This system was very old and in disrepair. This consultation involved helping the Library develop a work plan for eliminating the conveyor, adding a new state-of-the-art automated check-in system, implementing an effective self-service environment and changing the ways many of the spaces in the Library to optimize staff and patron workflows.

Library RFID and Materials Handling Consultation and Procurement

Consultation with Carlsbad City Library to evaluate their three branches for the purpose of upgrading their RFID and materials handling system. They had legacy tags (not compliant with current standards) and a very old sorter at one location. They were looking for help with options for upgrading their system while preserving their investment as much as possible.  

RFID and AMH in Libraries: State of the Art

Since the late 1980’s, libraries have been slowly adopting RFID (radio frequency identification) technology as a supplement to barcodes for library material identification and also as a way to replace legacy EM (electro-magnetic) security technologies (e.g. security strips).   RFID provides a single system for efficiently checking in, checking out, and securing library material and because it is based on radiowave technology, it does not require line-of-sight.  Unlike barcodes, which must be scanned one a time, multiple RFID-tagged items can be set on an RFID pad and checked in or checked out.

RFID helps staff work faster and more ergonomically than one-at-a-time barcode systems.  RFID  is also easier for patrons to use at the self-check-out machines.  Not only can staff and patrons check-out multiple items at a time, patrons are also less likely to be confused by the self-check-out process (e.g. distinguishing between barcodes and ISBN tags).

Although there are several benefits to using RFID, adoption has been slow because of the cost of implementing RFID systems and also because the technology was lacking key standards that made investing in RFID somewhat risky – until fairly recently.