Update: Hear panelists from Rochester City School district as they discuss why RFID is worth the cost of conversion.
Never shy about taking on a challenge, Rochester (NY) City School District tackled a migration of their Integrated Library System (ILS) and implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the same year.
Under the leadership of Dr. Colleen Sadowski (Executive Director Library & Media Services) and Dr. Melissa Frost (Systems Librarian) the district migrated 43 school libraries in 2022-2023 from the Follett Destiny ILS to The Library Corporation’s Library•Solution for Schools Integrated Library System.
“One of the key factors in our decision to change from Follett Destiny to TLC’s Library•Solution for Schools was the vast selection of ready-made reports available to us,” said Dr. Sadowski. “If we find we need something different, TLC will build reports specifically for us.”
Also in 2023, Rochester City School District implemented RFID in their school libraries with Tech Logic.
While thousands of public libraries have implemented RFID for efficiencies in circulation workflow, school libraries have been slower to adopt it due to conversion costs. However, Dr. Frost and Dr. Sadowski developed a successful case for moving to RFID based first and foremost on more efficient inventories and fewer repetitive motion injuries.
Finding missing materials using RFID also meant money saved on replacement costs. In addition, some of the district’s high schools will adopt RFID for self-checkout.
“The primary goal for our RFID project was faster, less cumbersome inventories to meet the requirements for annual inventories in school libraries in New York state,” Dr. Sadowski explained.
Their libraries were struggling to complete inventories because manual scanning required days of effort. Staff also suffered repetitive motion injuries from triggers on the barcode scanners and crawling to access books on low shelves. Inventory was a necessary evil, but an unpopular task that was difficult or impossible for all libraries to complete each year.
Through her research, Dr. Frost learned about the benefits of using RFID for inventory and ongoing shelf management.
Earlier in the year, at FETC 2023, Rochester described their motivations for pioneering RFID in the school library setting (see the full FETC 2023 presentation, below).
Rochester City School District selected Tech Logic for their RFID project because of the sister-company relationship between TLC and Tech Logic. Collaboration between the companies ensures system compatibility and combined customer support and problem solving.
“The Tech Logic tagging software was easy to train and use at the shelves or at circulation desks,” said Dr. Frost, “an important consideration for a large multi-site system and librarians with a wide range of technology skills.”
Library staff were responsible for tagging each collection with the addition of extra hours, teachers fulfilling professional development hours, volunteers, substitutes, and students doing service projects. During tagging, the condition of each item was assessed for damage and weeded as necessary.
Whether working in teams of two or as individuals, tagging worked best for the schools in four-hour blocks. Collection size for each district library averaged around 6,000 items and tagging was usually completed in 40 hours depending on other demands.
After RFID tagging was completed, the libraries were ready for streamlined inventory using staffCIRC TRAK, Tech Logic’s multi-function handheld RFID scanner. Tech Logic’s staffCIRC TRAK software supports four types of RFID shelf scanning:
- Gathering barcode numbers for inventory (and, with TLC’s ILS solutions, automatically relaying the barcode data to the inventory module)
- Checking individual item statuses against the ILS in real time and flagging exception statuses
- Locating specific lists of items
- Verifying active RFID tag security
Staff members used staffCIRC TRAK to gather barcode numbers quickly from shelved items, which automatically relayed the barcode data to the LS2 Inventory module in Library•Solution for Schools.
In the past, gathering barcode numbers for inventory took Rochester’s staff several full workdays because they had to pull and scan each item barcode manually. Now, with RFID and staffCIRC TRAK, inventory scanning is done in a few hours. After a quick scan of the shelves with staffCIRC TRAK, LS2 Inventory updates in real time and produces a “Missing Item” report for the inventoried collection.
This process also serves to help staff identify items that have been missed during tagging. After tagging those missed items, the items that are truly missing are deleted and considered for replacement by school librarians.
“We have found that we have more accurate inventories, and it is easier to find books on our shelves that may have wandered back in after being deleted or loaned elsewhere,” said Dr. Frost.
Challenges for Rochester on this project came in two areas—barcode symbology used in their previous ILS and inaccurate RFID tag encoding by a book jobber. TLC solved the barcode symbology problem with database customization during migration. Inaccurate RFID tag encoding by a book jobber created problems that delayed inventory in some locations until Tech Logic developed a customized solution.
Dr. Frost recommends spot checking new acquisitions arriving from book jobbers with an antenna to verify the correct RFID tag encoding.
Dr. Frost also offers other suggestions for school libraries following in their path. “Check to make sure that volunteers who tag materials are encoding and adhering the tags correctly in each item. Don’t worry about weeding for condition before the tagging project, because you’ll handle each item as you tag.”
The results of Rochester’s RFID project are completely tagged and weeded collections that satisfy the school district’s requirements. The collections are also ready for ongoing inventories and shelf management with staffCIRC TRAK to locate missing or lost materials. Students and faculty further appreciate using an up-to-date catalog.
“The staffCIRC TRAK wands are very popular,” said Dr. Frost, “and each library would now like to have their own.”
Congratulations to Rochester City School District for spearheading RFID in the school library setting!
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