What is the future of library technology?

James Breakell, UK Managing Director of security provider, D-Tech International, looks at current library tech and what is next

When it comes to technology, everything seems to move so quickly; you’ve barely mastered the potential of your latest smartphone, and you’re being pestered to upgrade it to the ‘new and improved edition’. There’s always something new, whether it’s the latest television, sound system, or kitchen gadget. But with the exception of groundbreaking innovations, the majority of enhancements rely on the same underlying technology, and it is no different in the library sector.

Whether it is security systems or self-service checkouts, most of the modern library technologies rely on the fundamental application of an RFID system. RFID systems require an RFID tag, an RFID reader and an antenna. It works by the reader capturing (via radio waves) the digital data sent from the tag. Because the radio signal is a form of energy, it can also be used to power the tag (so no batteries required). The idea is similar to a barcode except RFID does not have to be lined up with a scanner, just in the vicinity of the reader, and because even a minuscule tag can hold a lot more data than a barcode, the scope of its application is phenomenal. Another key difference is that RFID tags don’t just hold readable data, they can also be updated; hence they can be used to record lending history and update security data (allowing them to be taken through security gates). 

By using RFID technology in a library setting, you can facilitate reliable self-service, staff stations, inventory wands, security systems, 24-hour automated dispensing machines, and laptop storage and charging lockers. RFID can also be used to facilitate automatic sorting. 

This may be as simple as separating reserved items from other returns, through to transporting via a conveyor system to specific areas in the library. 

The data collection and utilisation capabilities of RFID opens the door to countless application concepts, many of which are in development already. Mapping your way directly to the book you are looking for using your phone or your library card, letting you know whether a book has been borrowed or is being used within the library, accessing an online study guide that can quickly explain the text you are reading, alerting library employees if a book is returned to the wrong shelf; the potential to assist both library users and staff is enormous.

The library of tomorrow will rely on evolving library management systems and fundamental, reliable RFID technology. The key to their success will be integration, and at D-Tech International we recognise the importance of seamless integration, just part of the reason that we develop, manufacture, install and maintain our own equipment. Our staff are knowledgeable and innovative, so we can always meet the challenges of changing technology and always give our customers value for money from their investment in our products.