Fully-enabled RFID Library Opens in New Zealand

MANUKAU City Council will open a hi-tech library in Botany Downs, which will be the first in New Zealand to track the location of its books using RFID tags.

Libraries manager Chris Szekely says tags have been attached to the library's collection of 30,000 books. Most of the hardware was in place last week and testing of the system has "been great", he says.

The tags can be read by wireless scanners and will mean library staff can check whether shelved books are out of sequence simply by running a handheld scanner along each shelf. RFID readers built into the library's returns box will also allow books to be automatically scanned and checked back into the library.

Mr Szekely expects the library's collection will double in size over the next two years.

All the RFID tags and associated hardware have been supplied by the New Zealand subsidiary of United States' RFID specialist Checkpoint Meto.

The RFID tags will replace the magnetic tags usually attached to books to prevent theft.

Mr Szekely says Manukau Libraries expects "huge savings" in staff time thanks to the ability to wirelessly locate books that are stacked out of sequence.

"Tasks that used to take an hour should take 10 minutes."

The branch library will be staffed to an equivalent level as conventional libraries, so librarians will have more time to devote to customer service, he says.

Many libraries across New Zealand are keeping a watching brief on the potential of RFID.

The cost of retro-fitting tags and readers to existing collections has delayed uptake of the technology to date, but this is expected to change within the next few years as the cost of tags and scanners comes down.

Wellington Libraries manager Jane Hill said earlier this year that RFID is likely to be on the agenda in the capital in two or three years.

She estimated it would cost about $1.5 million to retrospectively deploy RFID tags within Wellington Central Library alone.