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RFID Smart Shelf: Smart Library and Efficient Library Operations

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Jun 26, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Smart Shelf

With the rise of internet and so many technologies in item-level tracking such as RFID, BLE and QR Codes, don’t you think sorting and searching a book or a manuscript/journal in a library manually, for hours is kind of boring and inefficient? Library personnel spend a huge amount of time finding a book a reader needs or ensuring that the book is still with them and not some uncle grabbed it off the shelf and left. Not only staff but readers as well spend a huge amount of time finding the book they think can help them with education, job, life, and people in general but it shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

 This is the age of technology, the industry 4.0 where artificial intelligence, IoT, AIDC, Machine Learning, Simulation, Predictive Analytics and AI Chatbot based on GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) take precedence over manual, human way of doing stuff. Automation is making headway in every field be it retail, education, healthcare, supply chain and manufacturing etc. and that is why, I say, automation in library management and asset management is also very very necessary and a technology like RFID, when clubbed with a customized software, CCTV, and biometric security system can help.

RFID and RFID smart shelf

Radio Frequency Identification or RFID for short, is an AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) technology which uses Radio Frequency signals to communicate with an RFID tagged item and an RFID reader with the help of an antenna (often clubbed with the tag). The reader decodes the encoded data in the tag and identifies the item and sends it to a computer for the end user.

Now this short range wireless technology, which has been around for decades (it was also used in WW2), finds new application in creating RFID smart shelf where UHF RFID tagged items(say Books, journals, manuscripts or even apparel in a retail store) can be placed and identified and tracked rather quickly when moved from its designated location.

As it happens, many readers pick a number of books from the shelf and take them to a study table within the library premises. Now when the reading is done, they often leave the book at the table or put them on random shelf, or wrong shelf. This essentially leads to mismanagement of books in the library and other readers can’t find a particular book in the time of need. The RFID shelf system solves this problem rather efficiently.

How RFID shelf system works?

The RFID shelf system that I’ve seen in few libraries is based on UHF Passive RFID tags and RFID readers and a central computer software system to manage the data. Each book, journal and manuscript is tagged with an RFID label and placed on a designated section and shelf. RFID readers are attached to each shelf to record the movement of the book and status such as OK for correct placement, MISPLACED for books that don’t belong to that shelf and MISSING for books that should be on the shelf but aren’t. All this data is stored on the server in real time where library personnel can match the data and get the correct library management done in no time. 

There are also concerns regarding non-reading of certain RFID labels on some books leading to mismanagement. To prevent that, ensuring reading range and reading of all tags is very crucial. Use of UHF RFID tags and an efficient RFID reader will solve this problem.

Benefits of RFID shelf system in a smart library 

RFID shelf system is very much useful when it comes to automating library operations. Use of RFID to track books and journals, check outs and check-ins, and even access control is seen in many smart libraries around the world. The central library in Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD), New Delhi, IITB, Mumbai and The Library of Congress, Washington, The Seattle Public Library, Seattle etc. have successfully implemented RFID Library management system to track books, journals, manuscripts etc. 

Let’s see of the benefits of RFID shelf system in a smart library:

1.  RFID shelf system streamlines the library management.

2.  It allows the library personnel to arrange books in an organized manner, hassle free.

3.  RFID shelf also saves precious employee time and library personnel can attend customer better, leading to enhanced customer experience. 

4.  It helps with finding mission books and readers too can find the book in the designated section.

5.  The RFID shelf also prevents theft of precious books and journals by counting books/journals in real time and updating the status.

6.  RFID technology also helps with access control and borrowing of books.

7.  RFID drop boxes can be used to allow readers to drop books which can be updated in their library account in real-time, saving fines and late fees.

8.  The technology increases the visibility of books and journals inside the library, particularly big libraries where the stock is in millions.

9.  It also helps with inventory management, allowing library personnel to audit the entire stock in a short period of time and take necessary actions.

RFID shelf system is an efficient system that can benefit libraries greatly. When implemented correctly, it not only helps the library, library staffs but the readers as well, as they can find any book they want in the relevant section. Sure, it costs a lot of money, mostly due to RFID readers and software, but benefits far outweigh the cost, benefitting the library in long run. 

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  • Created on Jun 26, 2023
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