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Downers Grove

Rick Ashton: RFID tags help track library material

Thanks to a unique community partnership, the letters “RFID” have become familiar around the Downers Grove Public Library in recent months. They stand for “radio frequency identification,” and they represent the next chapter of development in the library’s provision of fast, accurate, flexible service.

RFID is a step beyond the familiar bar code technology used to keep track of a 300,000-item inventory and a 30,000-person customer base. By placing an RFID target tag in every item in the library’s collection, we will improve the ability of our customers and staff members to identify, locate, check out, check in and reshelve books and other materials. When used with self-checkout scanning stations and automatic sorting equipment, RFID will improve all involved processes.

RFID tagging began last summer after the purchase of a large supply of tags and the leasing of the equipment needed to activate them. We had no funding for additional staff time or temporary workers to perform the job. Some staff members were able to reallocate a portion of their work week to the task, but the project would have dragged on indefinitely at our pace.

This is where a most valuable resource, the corps of work-study students from Midwestern University, has made all the difference. Since last October, 13 students have logged about 1,050 very productive hours with us, mostly devoted to the tagging project.

They were able to help us because Midwestern University seeks opportunities to involve its students in worthwhile work supported by the federal financial aid they receive. Future health professionals, the students all know that other people are counting on them to do good work.

As a consequence, they are reliable, consistent, fast and friendly workers. Their contribution will not be marked by a bronze plaque, but it will be engraved upon the hearts and minds of everyone at the Downers Grove Public Library. They have delivered another example of great community support from one of our village’s leading institutional citizens.

Meanwhile, we have almost finished the installation of RFID tags. The new equipment will be installed soon, and the RFID era will begin.

Rick Ashton is the director of the Downers Grove Public Library

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