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Wednesday, 17.02.2010
Dynamic Order

Continuous Library Inventory
using RFID Technology

Beyond the possibilities and limitations of traditional and modern systems of library organization

Presentation on the RFID system for the continuous inventory of the Art Library and short talks on the subjects of ways of organizing libraries and the use of RFID technologies for ubiquitous computing, with Boris Brun, dipl. Ing. FH; Silvio Frigg, Stiftsbibliothek St.Gallen; Dr. Christian Kern, Infomedis; Prof. Dr. Frédéric Thiesse (Institute for Technology Management, University of St.Gallen).

Continuous Inventory using RFID Technology—Associative insights into the interfaces of various interests

The opening up of the Library in the Sitterwerk to the public takes place using modern technology. The books are equipped with so-called intelligent tags. These RFID tags, which are glued to the inside of the book cover, hold the bibliographic information in a radio chip. By means of radio waves, antenna and an electronic reading and writing device, these chips can connect with the digital catalogue.

The RFID technology has up to now been used in libraries exclusively for handling library loans and as protection against theft. On the other hand, it is often used in modern storage technology to enable chaotic and thus space-saving storage. Extensive inventories that are constantly changing, e.g. in a production facility, are therefore not stored temporarily in a spatially structured manner but simply placed where there is currently space. So that this storage is, nevertheless, still efficient, it is necessary that the goods stored can always be found immediately. Such continuous inventory is made possible through locating goods by means of RFID technology.

In the Library in the Sitterwerk, these two uses of RFID technology are now being combined with one another for the first time in a pilot project: the reading device for this radio-frequency-identification (RFID) technology is now, and initially uniquely, able to register all of the shelves of the Library. In this way, the storage-technical principle of continuous inventory can now be used in the Library. In order to do so, the antenna of the reading device has to be led past the bookshelves by means of an automated mechanical system.

This mechanical system is currently being developed, constructed and installed in the Library, and its operation checked by the mechanical engineer Boris Brun within the framework of a project especially for the Sitterwerk. When the goal of being able to recognize the current location of every book has finally been achieved, this innovative application of RFID technology in library administration will open up perspectives far beyond streamlining. The constraint to use the library in a disciplined manner will become superfluous. Every book can be placed anywhere and everyone can still find it nevertheless. This will result in a dynamic order for the library, in which groups of books are created and again disperse. These represent references generated by individual users with their diverse objectives and working methods. At the interface of various interests, cross-references are created as a result of fertile coincidences that allow for unexpected insights.