by Valerie Verkamp
Library patrons who have recently stepped foot inside a Mid-Continent Public Library have probably noticed a few changes. Most obvious among those modifications is the placement of self-checkout and check-in stations, as well as security gates located just inside the libraries' interior doorway.
While the era of presenting library material to an actual person may be over, library officials say the services provided at the Mid-Continent Public Library will be enhanced in a variety of other ways.
Over the past several weeks, several of the public libraries in the Northland have transitioned into a system where the entire library collection is tagged with what are called radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Those tags can then be scanned by a mechanism that uses radio waves to automatically identify the material.
“The RFID system keeps track of the items that are in the library building and the items that customers checked out when they leave the library,” said Tim Phillips, the assistance branch manager at the Riverside Mid-Continent Public Library.
Phillip said the upgraded system is a major time saver. Rather than scanning just one book at a time, the RFID affords library patrons the convenience of scanning several items at once. Thereby, diminishing the chances of making a mistake, he said.
In the Northland, the Riverside branch was one the first libraries to begin placing RFID tags on all books, DVD's, and musical CD's. Since fully implementing the system over a seven day period, library officials say the response has been a positive one.
“It has been a wonderful transition,” said Phillips. “Just seeing the looks of amazement and the expression of just 'wow' every time someone uses the new system is pretty exciting.”
But not all library patrons share the same enthusiasm. George Kavanaugh of Kansas City said the new self-checkout stations severely “lack personal service.”
“We are used to friendly librarians checking out our books. Never talking to anyone or seeing anyone is something we are going to have to get used to,” said Kavanaugh Friday afternoon after using the self-checkout station.
Although librarians won't be found behind an elongated circulation desk checking library materials in and out, library officials assure patrons that librarians will be available to assist in a variety of other helpful ways.
“RFID allows the library staff to devote more time to helping our customers with locating materials, answering reference questions, and responding to technology questions. It takes a little bit of the pressure off the staff,” said Phillip.
Since the transition, Phillip said the Riverside Mid-Continent Public Library has maintained about the same size staff.
Over the next few months, all 31 Mid-Continent Public Library branches will transition to the RFID system.
National Library Card Sign-Up Month
In other news involving libraries, in conjunction with the start of the new school year, September is National Library Card Sign-up month.
“With school beginning, now is a perfect time for families to visit their local library together to sign up for a library card,” said Secretary of State Jason Kander. “No one is too young or too old to reap the benefits of free programming and resources available at the local public library, and I encourage all Missourians to sign up for a library card.”
Kander said a library card is the smartest card to have inside your wallet. Reading 15 minutes a day bolsters early literacy skills and better prepares children for success in school, he said.
Funding provided by the Missouri Secretary of State's office enriched early literacy programs at public libraries across the state. “As parents of a toddler, my wife and I understand the importance of developing early literacy skills in children,” said Kander.