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More on RFID in the Library

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on September 16, 2014

On July 8th, we turned on the gates that went with our RFID system from D-Tech, and the next chapter of our RFID adventure began!

As we had suspected, almost every “ring” we have gotten has been from materials returning to the building that had been checked out prior to the staff “going live” with RFID. For six weeks prior to the gates being turned on, we trained our patrons using the self-checks, as well as our staff doing check-outs at the circulation desk, to check out materials with the RFID software.  Unfortunately, some materials slipped through, but many fewer than we had anticipated!

It was about four months between attaching the final RFID tags and starting checking materials out with the RFID software.  In the interim, we did checking in (materials discharge) with the RFID software.  That taught us that our quality control in placing and programming the tags was not as good as we had thought.  Fortunately, we had planned to take things slow and had plenty of time to continue testing things.  We tested hardware, software, equipment, and human procedures.  D-Tech was able to help us “tune” our gates during this testing process.  They were very patient with us, and we cannot say enough good things about Chris, our installer, and James, technical support from D-Tech, who continue to answer all our questions whenever we have them.  We understood from D-Tech that “settling in” is a common step many institutions miss . This fine-tuning of settings and controls within the gates and software happens before the gates are turned on for continual use.  As a result of this testing, we felt very confident when we turned the gates on in July.

Now are patrons are greeted by a Plexiglas RFIDGate, http://www.d-techdirect.com/products/rfid-products/d-tech-plexi-gate/.  Practically every patron, regardless of age or gender, is enthralled with how attractive they are. We’ll admit that the comments about how the changing spectrum of colors on the gates should match our library’s logo colors are starting to get a little old, but we know for sure that people have noticed the gates. There are some people who stop and watch the whole cycle of colors before they leave the building.

The gates “going live,” has meant they are colorful and occasionally make noise. Thus, we have received other patron questions. Some thought the gates were to detect guns or other weapons. Many were concerned the gates were going to interfere with their pacemakers or other health-related devices. Apparently getting RFID gates is a fabulous way to find out even more about our patrons’ medical conditions! It is a credit to our circulation staff that they field questions and empathize with the medical conditions of our patrons with humor and grace. The activation of the gates has also caused patrons to question whether the tags have GPS qualities. There has been some good-natured debate among the staff as to why people think we would want GPS on our materials. We’ve concluded that people might be concerned we’re going to literally hunt their materials down when they’re overdue, or we’re going to pass judgment on where they use our materials.

By far the funniest thing with the gates turning on happened during our recent high school lock-in. Apparently when you’re a sleep deprived teenager, 6:30 AM is a great time to see if you can “sneak up” on the gates and try to make them go off. Who knew RFID gates could bring such joy to teenagers who giggled like little kids with every ring? However, the similarly sleepy library staff couldn’t stop laughing at the kids “experimenting.” A good time was had by all. We suppose now we can add “patron entertainment” to the list of benefits of RFID gates, but that’s probably still a lesser benefit than materials tracking and security.

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