21. April 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized

As RFID suppliers continue their expansion into new areas of the library market – such as 3M’s Cloud Library®, or D-Tech’s The Link® – Bibliotheca’s latest offering sees the company bring a new meaning to “library management”.

Open+ builds on solutions originally delivered in Denmark where the concept of the “open library” has been developing for some time now.

24/7 access to library buildings

24/7 access to library buildings

What is it?

Open + is not so much a product as a solution. Bringing together security, surveillance and systems in one package requires a fair amount of tailoring to local needs so this may not be “one size fits all solution” – each installation could bring new challenges.

The Open+ website declares it to be “a complete solution which extends library opening hours and improves service to the community” which “can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and patron safety.”

How does it work?

In Leeds – the first UK pilot site for the product – Open+ has just been installed in a small branch library. Bibliotheca installed CCTV cameras, audio speakers, a keypad outside the library, and the software.  Leeds use the ALTO® solution developed by TALIS.  Library users (over 18 only) are invited to subscribe to use Open+ and flagged in their ALTO borrower record as being an Open+ user. 60 users signed up for the service in the first 3 weeks of operation.

On arrival at the library during unstaffed hours Open+ subscribers insert their membership card into a reader linked to the ALTO system via the SIP 2.0 protocol and enter a PIN to gain access to the building. Once inside they can browse and borrow until the branch closes. Closure is announced over a loudspeaker system. Both the announcement and its timings are set by the library staff in the system parameters.

Security cameras constantly monitor the library during unstaffed hours. A central controller has access to all the security systems, cameras, speakers etc. The controller could be located anywhere with access to the internet – so could be facilities managed or maintained by council ICT services as agreed.

Bibliotheca have stated that the solution is not limited to existing clients of the company but indicate that taking on responsibility for another supplier’s self-service solution for example, would be likely to incur additional costs.

There’s more information on the system here – and Bibliotheca’s FAQ is here.

Comment

First things first.

Bibliotheca make it very clear in all the marketing literature that their intention is NOT to accelerate the demise of the public librarian.

That said, whatever the company’s stated hopes the product DOES make it possible to run unstaffed libraries 24/7 if desired – subject to any operational constraints on the systems within them . This is news that will delight as many as it dismays. Campaigners for saving libraries may see this as a way to preserve smaller branches while campaigners for saving librarians will more likely view this as a direct threat to their livelihood. Some councils will see this as a way to extend existing services with fewer staff (certainly the view taken in Leeds) while others may see it as a way of removing professional staff from library desks altogether.

That’s not really a debate for this blog. However there are a couple of points I want to raise here – as they may well have an impact on service planning. Both relate to identity.

The current UK implementation of Open+ uses the library card to gain access to the building. As we have seen, library card numbers are frequently re-used by LMS(ILS) suppliers so the same number may well be in use at different authorities. The PIN associated with each card (and stored in the local LMS database should provide adequate security to prevent non-members gaining access to the building (what are the chances of people choosing the same PIN after all?) – however it is the Danish model for open libraries that is cited in the sales literature, and that model  – similar to the Danish approach to self-service – differs from many other markets (like England and Wales, Ireland and the USA) in one significant way – it is a national scheme.

Danish library users use their health registration cards both to gain access to library buildings out of staffed hours and as membership cards when borrowing items. In Scotland the entitlement card often performs a similar function.

So it’s worth bearing that in mind when configuring library access – to avoid an implementation that might make the introduction of a national scheme like Denmark’s more expensive or difficult.

The second point relates to that opening tagline – the bit about how Open+ “improves service to the community”.

Like D Tech – with their Link product, Bibliotheca are very active in the non-library, non-RFID market. Bibliotheca’s MyCommunity product was recently cited as the reason for buying self-service kiosks in Lambeth. Both products provide access to other council services from library kiosks. Neither requires the use of RFID – or indeed a library.

It looks like another opportunity to think ahead and consider access control via ID in the context of all council services rather than pass that responsibility onto the LMS(ILS).

1 Comment

  1. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is just another way of saving money and is another nail in the coffin of an already stretched service. Who honestly thinks that small libraries will be allowed to stay open using this technology? Staff will still be required to maintain the building, re-order stock, put books back in their right place, etc. and at a time of government cuts the easiest option is going to be getting rid of as many staff as possible. Councils will simply cut back on the number of people they employ and libraries will still have to shut as there will be no-one to maintain them. It will allow the bigger libraries to continue but at much reduced staffing levels.

    I would also be concerned that there could be an age limit imposed that effectively disbars younger children from visiting the library and that would be tragedy.

    Although you say this discussion was not the purpose of the blog there is no way you can avoid it I’m afraid.

Have a view? Please share!