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About a thousand items disappear from the Los Alamos County libraries each year. That equates to some $20,000 and 175 hours of staff time spent searching for items listed in the catalog but missing from the shelf, said Library Manager Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan during her presentation to County Council at White Rock Town Hall Tuesday.
Councilors were clearly stunned. Councilor Jim West shook his head saying, “I find that incredible in this community.”
West asked which category of books was stolen most often, and Kalogeros-Chattan said the number-one choice of local thieves is art books, which are extremely costly.
Kalogeros-Chattan and library Technical Services Manager Doris Logan conducted a PowerPoint presentation detailing the advantages and security benefits associated with purchasing a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) system:
Self-checkout of materials for patrons;
An inventory of the library collection; and
A security system for the library collection.
“One of the biggest advantages is security,” Kalogeros-Chattan said. “RFID ‘security gates’ would prevent tagged items from being removed from the libraries without beibg checked out.”
RFID has been used in retail for security inventory control since the 1980s, and in libraries since 1999, she said.
Kalogeros-Chattan told council the libraries’ collection had not been inventoried in some 15 years, which is a perennial source of frustration for patrons.
RFID will take care of the inventory issue and also features a self-checkout capability that provides privacy for individuals who prefer to keep their reading choices to themselves.
Kalogeros-Chattan added that some 7,000 hours of annual staff time spent checking people out will be saved. The library will continue to offer its current staff-assisted checkout process but studies show a significant number of patrons will opt for self-checkout not only for privacy but to avoid standing in line, she said.
RFID works through an individual tagging system. Each tag consists of a computer chip and an antenna. The chip stores information and holds the logic necessary to know what to do when it is “interrogated.”
The tag is like a simple two-way radio. It receives a radio frequency wave from the antenna attached to the RFID reader, processes the signal and sends the tag’s information to a computer in which a software application resides.
The total cost to install the system in Mesa Public Library and White Rock Public Library is $286,877.
Those funds will come from the Community Services Department budget savings. Another $60,000 represents a donation from the Friends of the Library to be used for the self-check stations at each facility.
Council unanimously approved the RFID project. Council Chair Jim Hall and Councilor Nona Bowman were absent.
Acting Council Chair Robert Gibson praised the Library Board for its fine work efforts on the project.
Councilors and library management agreed and also wanted to express appreciation to the Friends of Mesa Public Library.
They decided a Letter of Recognition from council, signed by the chair, was warranted.
“I think that would mean a lot to them,” Kalogeros-Chattan said.