published Friday, July 27th, 2012

Cleveland library eyes self-checkout technology

Cleveland/Bradley Public Library
Cleveland/Bradley Public Library
Photo by Randall Higgins.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland/Bradley Public Library has elected new board officers, and officials are considering adopting new technology to increase circulation efficiency.

Board members this week welcomed attorney Phil Jacobs to the body.

"I'm a supporter of the library," Jacobs said. "I believe the library reflects the pulse of the community, and I want to be part of that."

The library board retained Tara Brown as its president and elected John Hagler as vice chairman and Susan Lackey as treasurer. Andrew Hunt, the library director, was elected secretary.

Following up on recent discussions about adopting radio frequency identification technology, Brown, Hunt and Hagler reported on a recent trip to Brentwood, Tenn., to see how RFID technology is used at its library.

The technology, commonly used in mall security systems and "fast pass" credit card payment devices at fuel pumps, has been adapted to improve book circulation and inventory at libraries.

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Arguments for replacing the library's current tag-and-scan system are that RFID is quicker and easier to use, creates a better self-checkout experience and frees staff to help patrons with other needs, officials said.

The trip gave the trio a better understanding of problems that may occur during the transition to the technology, Brown said. Problems could range from sluggish book tag reading to hardware incompatibility, officials said.

Hagler said RFID would require a comprehensive implementation -- the library cannot simply plug it in.

And, because the cost of RFID is $50,000 to $60,000, "we can't fund it on a whim," Hunt said.

He said the library's increased circulation in the last fiscal year underscores the need for RFID.

The library system logged 307,000 visits among the main library, the history branch and the bookmobile, or 38,000 more visits over the previous year, he said.

"We could not make it without the volunteers," said Hagler, who noted the library benefited from 7,000 volunteer hours, equivalent to about three full-time employees.

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