IUG 2001 Conference Proceedings

Table of Contents

Session: M9

Checkpoint, RFID and the Santa Clara City Library

Darla Wegener, Santa Clara City Library

Karen Saunders, Santa Clara City Library
Mary Jo Bosteels, Santa Clara City Library

In 1999, the Santa Clara City Library determined that they wanted to improve circulation services to meet a growing demand. Their goals were to streamline checkout processes and check-in procedures at the desk, provide patron self-check capabilities, and position their institution to take advantage of future technologies, possibly including a materials handling system.

Circulation was increasing by 10% each year. The circulation staff couldn't keep pace with the demand for services. Long lines at the checkout desk and a legacy Checkpoint security system were frustrating blocks to operational efficiency. Also, the library was in design phase for a new, larger library building, which is now due to be completed early in 2004.

The Checkpoint Intelligent Library system, using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, was introduced for the library market during the period when Santa Clara City Library staff were investigating their options. RFID technology uses a security label with both a Radio Frequency marker and an embedded microchip. The RFID security tag is programmed with a material barcode number. The tag provides two functions: to link the item to a bib record and to determine if the item was discharged properly so a security alarm can be issued if necessary.

Performance criteria for weighing vendor security system choices were:
1. Check-in/ checkout simplification for staff, to increase efficiency and minimize repetitive stress injury;
2. Easy-to-use patron self-check features;
3. Ability to secure magnetic media (cassettes and videos) but simplify check-in/ checkout procedures, in a process that would be similar to book handling;
4. Link between security system and bibliographic record, including a smooth interface with III system;
5. Efficient inventory without handling each item;
6. Flexible system to use with new and future technology, such as an automated materials handling system.

Concerns when choosing the Checkpoint RFID system were:
1. Santa Clara was the first library on the West Coast to implement the Intelligent Library System;
2. Costs -- labor and materials for 317,000 items;
3. Size of the label, especially when targeting AV materials (CDs and videos). (Presenters noted that a new smaller video tag will address this concern).

After a review process and vendor presentations, the Checkpoint RFID system was approved and purchased in May 2000. Santa Clara City Library formed an implementation committee for this project, with all areas of the library represented. The timing goal was to have new RFID targets installed in collection materials by November 2000. The entire staff was asked to help in targeting the collection. Schedules for working with areas of the collection were made, and vendor training began. Checkpoint trained 80 staff members in targeting in one week. Procedures were written and rewritten as staff gained experience and expertise with programming the new security tags.

Presenters discussed the RFID tagging implementation process and the tools and supplies required. They demonstrated the tag programming unit, staff station reader, and outlined the PC hardware and software that they installed for programming tags and handling staff station reader output. They showed sample RFID tags and cover labels used on their materials. Staff worked in teams of two on assigned one-hour shifts at six stations set up for tagging. They moved books from shelves to the tagging station. It was noted that between 40 to 60 books per hour were tagged, programmed, and covered with labels, from shelf removal to replacement. It was also noted that for newly purchased materials, after the initial conversion, libraries receive tags with preprogrammed with barcode numbers in their chips. While libraries could choose to dispense with barcodes altogether, SCL staff decided to continue printing an "eye readable" barcode with a barcode printer for staff convenience.

Another decision was made, from the circulation's operational side, to begin using receipt printers, and to give up stamped pocket cards, which had previously been put in materials at checkout and then removed at check-in. It is estimated that this practice results in about a 50% time saving for circulation staff. With RFID and MilCirc, desk staff handle each piece individually, first scanning the patron barcode, then passing the item over the staff station reader located under the checkout desk. It was noted that the MilCirc transaction needs to be "Closed" before the patron hits the Checkpoint security gate, or items register as not checked out. Some false alarms also occur because the III server can slow down with high traffic volume. Check-ins are now done through a drop slot, where staff take materials and pass them over a staff station to remove them from the database of materials checked out.

A Checkpoint dedicated server manages the security alarm alert process. The Checkpoint server tracks item barcodes scanned at the staff station readers. Sensors at the library door connect to the Checkpoint LAN. When an item's RDIF target passes through the gate, the gate antenna communicates with the security tag (like a cell tower), the barcode number is transmitted and compared with the Checkpoint database to determine if it is legally checked out. A report of the item barcode numbers registering as "missing" shows real-time on a staff monitor and a log report is also generated. By manually checking against the patron's checkout receipt, staff can determine which item was missed at the circulation desk without rescanning every item the patron is holding.

The last component, self-check stations for the public, took about three weeks to get up and running due to some software hurdles. The self-check unit has a touch screen interface, which shows a short demonstration film for patrons and presents the steps to check out materials as "easy as A,B,C". The steps involved are:
A. Pass patron card through the unit's barcode scanner;
B. Pass books over unit's shelf (you can scan multiple items up to a stack 6 inches tall);
C. Press "done' and collect the receipt telling you the total number of books checked out.

Information was presented about maintenance routines (backups, synchronization, and purges) and reporting from the Checkpoint server, including summary statistical reports and detailed activity and alarm lists available from the report generator.

Positive outcomes from the Santa Clara City Library Checkpoint RFID project include a simpler workflow, no extra steps to sensitize or desensitize materials, friendly patron self-check, the ability to redirect staff to helping patrons, and more accurate, detailed and timely theft information. Presenters anticipate soon being able to secure AV material without separate locking or security equipment, tagging the actual piece, not just the case. They anticipate that they will use the RFID system with the Techlogic materials handling system planned for their new facility.

This presentation may be viewed online at http://library.ci.santa-clara.ca.us/rfid/checkpoint.html

Janice Painter, Princeton Public Library