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 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. 

Finding Library Solutions in Adjacent Industries

As much as we like to think that libraries are unique, they actually operate much like a supply chain system with central distribution centers and retail outlets. Obviously, there are differences but when it comes to materials handling, an area in which I do a lot of consulting, the similarities are striking. Both industries distribute material to outlets, require complex logistics systems, require accurate sorting and picking, and employ self-service technologies.

Library RFID Procurement

Lori Ayre worked with Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library to meet with Library stakeholders and clarify the short and long-term goals related to their planned RFID procurement and to learn more about the realities of RFID use in libraries. Building on this initial meeting, Ayre worked with the Library to develop an RFP and procurement plan. Ayre drafted the RFP, developed a scoring instrument, and also created a demo script and scoring instrument for the demo.  

Library RFID, AMH, and Patron Experience Consultation

Dayton Metro Library has embarked on a series of initiatives that will transition the library from a 22-outlet system with book-centered spaces to a 17-outlet system designed to better serve the diverse needs of the Montgomery County community.

The Library contracted with The Galecia Group for help evaluating the potential benefits of using new technologies to create optimized workflows for staff and improve the customer experience.

The contract included assessing the benefits, costs, and return on investment of RFID and materials handling technologies. In addition, the project included a process in which staff would learn more about the technology and participate in a series of activities that would help them envision how RFID, sorters, self check-in, and self check-out, could be employed to free up staff time and library spaces allowing staff to focus on the evolving needs of their patrons and better serve their communities.  

The Skinny on RFID and Automated Materials Handling in Libraries

This presentation was part of a three-day workshop that I delivered to Dayton Metro Library with my colleagues, Cheryl Gould and Sam McBane Mulford. Dayton is remodeling and building new libraries as well as consolidating some of the smaller branches. They have been looking at automated materials handling and RFID as possible technologies to incorporate into their new buildings.  

Rather than focusing on the requirements of the technology and letting that drive the project, we wanted to help them focus on their core library values and envision how they might change the patron experience for the better.

It was an intense three days of very hard work for the group but it went very well. They not only learned more about RFID and automated materials handling (and other self-service technologies) but they also came up with core service elements that they want to see as part of their new service model. They made informed decisions about the technologies they would like to see implemented and they even made a tentative staffing plan.  That's a LOT to accomplish in three days!

RFID: What is Your Strategy?

To successfully roll out RFID, it is critical to establish a clear set of priorities for doing so and to continually make choices based on those priorities. Decisions must be made about how the system will be configured to suit the workflow you want to use. Remodeling may be required to locate equipment where it will be most effective. Signage and patron assistance will be required. Oftentimes, circulation policies need to be modified or materials security strategies need to change.

RFID, GPS, and 3G - Radio Wave Technologies and Privacy

Another issue of Collaborative Librarianship is out and my Technology Matters column is about radio wave technologies and where the biggest privacy concerns really are. Some people refer to RFID chips as "tiny trackers" and that certainly makes them sound creepy. But it could be that the creepiest "tracker" out there is our beloved smartphone!

Here's an excerpt: