RFID…much more than security and self-service

There are those that do, those that don’t, those that think they do and most of us who wished we could…understand RFID. This article is aimed at those that want to see that the technology, much heralded as a release from drudgery for the librarian, is beginning, just beginning, to offer more stimulating opportunities. Real products with proven results and inspired users, not just safer media and easier self-service.


There are many who are immersed in the darker reaches of the SIP protocols, NFC, etc., pick up any library blog and there are dedicated experts doing a great job clarifying the standards and preparing the groundwork for the future ISO wars. However, here we are going to look at a few recent success stories that should lift the spirits and show how librarians, by demanding more from suppliers, are using the technology to deliver for their needs and not just picking what is offered from the new, RFID generation game conveyor belt of products.

An Oasis for young readers

It was at a CILIPS Conference in Edinburgh that Ellen Gallacher caught many people’s imagination with her presentation of work with pupils in a Glasgow secondary school using 2CQR’s WonderWall. This multimedia, interactive bookshelf with a touchscreen computer allows users to access information held on RFID tags. By placing your chosen book onto the WonderWall’s ‘Hot Spot’ you instantly receive content descriptions, extract readings and author interactions . The WonderWall also offers; catalogue and web search facilities, reader guides, pictures, movies and many more features.

A powerful tool

In Glasgow, WonderWalls are used in several school libraries with specific themes; such as film, football, Manga and poetry. Having been allocated the Manga themed WonderWall and its accompanying pop up library for a year Ellen integrated it into the library activities for first and second year pupils, many professing not to have read any books. Given detailed instructions and worksheets to help create a character, cartoon strip and book cover, pupils then browsed the comics and Manga which came with the WonderWall.

Introducing a tag devoted to Manga at the St Andrew’s school enabled pupils’ work to be added to the WonderWall. This provoked a great deal of interest among the pupils especially as the work would remain on the system when it was moved to the next school.

“The WonderWall was a powerful tool in creating interest and enthusiasm.” Ellen explained. “The most notable difference was with those pupils who declared they had no interest in reading but by encouraging them to be creative and explore their own imaginations they became stimulated to read”

Ellen saw further success through the increased pattern of book borrowing, initially with the Manga and comic books but then extending into other areas.

Library in a box

One of the extensions we discussed with librarians following the success of the WonderWall was for a PopUp library, a portable media and book storage unit with

options for self-service, RFID and Mifare plus the presentation opportunities via the WonderWall multi-media technology. Working with Demco Interiors we produced a light, high-quality prototype which we then reviewed with a cross section of librarians. We were delighted with the response and surprised at the variety of uses they believed it would be suitable for. Originally we saw the PopUp being used in remote areas or across multi locations, for occasional use or where space was limited. However, librarians also saw possibilities as a promotional tool at events and for schools where there was limited space for a permanent library.

Moving along

This feedback led us to develop two sizes; full height and schools/children’s library height version. Both have wheels and can be transported and managed by one person. The larger library also has a side roller to make loading and manoeuvring easier. Librarians also wanted a branded product, something that carried their identity or a promotional message. So, along with a choice of RAL colours the Pop-Up can also be finished in unique vinyl decoration.

Clever clicking

Our latest development, installed in the University of Bedfordshire, picks up on the phenomenon of “click and collect”. Used to take the uncertainty, postal reliance and “while you were out notes” away from online shopping we are now seeing the library market embrace this similar but library dedicated proposition.

Working with librarians and using the basis of proven technology but with purpose built storage and our library specific software, Lucid, 2CQR now appear to have the perfect solution.

How it works for the customer

It’s so simple. Order your book, cd, magazine or dvd on line or via smartphone from your library, potentially using OPAC (online public access catalogue), your physical order is placed in a locker in the TakeAway kiosk (various sized lockers can cater for multiple orders) when the item is ready you are contacted and, using your predetermined ID, you visit the kiosk at a time to suit yourself. Using the touch screen you and your media are identified, your locker is opened and, once taken, your library account is updated.

How it works for the library

The TakeAway kiosk has been created to make both the borrower’s and the librarian’s lifes easier. Its built-in staff functions ensure efficient monitoring of usage with the dedicated Lucid software enabling staff to monitor statistics remotely. Checking contents, library accounts and cancelling reservations are all covered. The unit itself is ergonomically designed to facilitate the physical tasks of loading and discharging and, as popularity increases, the kiosk can be extended with additional modules that are simple to configure. So impressed are the first users that they have ordered another one!

More to come?

All these products are impressive, highly functional and desirable additions for any library. More importantly all are created through consultation with librarians, users, IT departments, LMS suppliers and specialists in technology beyond the library market.

With more developments to come RFID and 2CQR are creating a big difference in the library environment in more ways than pure monitoring and control.