eAgile Ultra High Frequency RFID System
Marla Ehlers, assistant director of Grand Rapids Public Library, uses the ultra-high-frequency RFID system
Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Library has launched a radio frequency identification system (RFID) that was installed in its eight branches in late November 2012. The library is the first in North America to adopt an ultra-high-frequency (UHF) RFID system. Most libraries in the country that have implemented RFID technology use high-frequency (HF) passive tags, which read short-range at checkout counters. But with the UHF system, the library can automate book returns, check out several books at once, provide a security gate that identifies items, and locate books using a handheld reader. “We recognized early on how it offered much more efficient materials handling both at checkout and check-in, and how using RFID could free staff from repetitive work focused on items,” said Marla Ehlers, assistant director of Grand Rapids Public Library.
After the library received quotes in 2007 that were beyond its financial reach, it migrated to Evergreen, an open-source integrated library system. The IT department, under the instruction of information systems manager Bill Ott, wrote the entire code for the RFID system, also receiving input from students of nearby Calvin College. This saved 60% of the cost of purchasing an out-of-box system. In 2008 Ott became aware of eAgile, a Grand Rapids tag manufacturer that could create an open-source RFID materials handling system. The company specializes in supplying UHF or HF RFID solutions that are designed to integrate with the transition toward open-source ILS platforms like Evergreen, as well as commercially available systems. The library provided eAgile with catalog information for every shelf, and encoded and printed RFID labels for each book, CD, and DVD. As patrons scan the labels over an eAgile reader, they are moving through checkout much faster and items are brought up on the floor for reshelving much sooner.
The library is currently beta-testing technology to accommodate other helpful functions, including software for a handheld reader that will alert staff members to a missing item’s ID when it is within 20 feet. Ehlers said, “Eventually we plan to develop the software to take a whole collection inventory with a rolling cart reader, as well as other features to the system, although those won’t happen for some time yet.”