Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wallingford Library seeking Operation Automation volunteers

As published in the Record Journal on Tuesday April 9, 2013

By Eric Vo
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

The Wallingford Public Library is seeking volunteers to assist in the completion of Operation Automation, which is scheduled to begin in May.

Operation Automation is a multipart project that consists of bringing new radio-frequency identification technology into the library. The first phase of the project involves putting RFID tags on every item. Due to the large number of items, volunteers are being sought to help with the first part of the project, which is expected to take six months to complete, said Jane Fisher, director of the library.

“We’re hoping to start training volunteers during the first week in May,” Fisher said. “We’re looking for volunteers who are committed to come in once a week for an hour and a half.”

The volunteers will be trained on how to apply the RFID tag onto the back cover of books and scan them into a computer, which programs the tag, said Judy Sgammato, head of circulation at the library. Sgammato said the volunteers will also be shown how to tag the library’s media inventory, a procedure that is expected to be more difficult and time consuming.

“Each DVD and music CD and books on CD will receive a radio frequency tag that is an overlay that goes on the disk. That takes a bit more dexterity and more time,” Sgammato said. “The volunteers will apply the overlays and the regular RFID tags onto the case ... the process will take at least two to three minutes per item. We’re looking close to 1,000 hours spent on media tagging.”

The project is expected to be completed by the fall, Fisher said. Half of it was paid for by an anonymous donor, and the other half will be paid with library funds.

With RFID technology, everyday operations at the library can be completed more quickly. The technology ultimately allows the library to create a better self-checkout system, construct an automated return system, and improve security, Fisher said.

The library currently has a self-checkout system, but patrons still have to scan individual barcodes. With the RFID tags, Fisher said, a patron can simply place a stack of books onto a pad and each book will be scanned.

With the automated return system, patrons will place their books through a window, which will then drop onto a conveyor belt. Since each item will be tagged, they will be separated into seven bins depending on their category.

With tagged items, the staff will also know when a patron is leaving the library without checking something out. It’s a security system the library currently lacks, Fisher said.

In addition to modernizing library operations, the RFID technology allows for staffing flexibility, Fisher said.

“Right now, we may have three staff members behind the desk. (With RFID), we’ll probably have two behind the desk and a third can act as a greeter and navigate the library,”she said. The Wallingford Public Library isn’t the first in the state to use RFID technology, but once everything is in operation, Fisher said the library will serve as a model.

“The RFID allows us to do multiple things, like self checkouts, returns, sorting, a security system. It makes it appealing,” Fisher said. “We’re working with 3M ... a company that was interested in Wallingford as a showcase because we’re centrally located and the circulation is about 700,000 items per year. Once we’re up and running, we can show what this project looks like.”

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