Technology can potentially transform how library operations are performed. From keeping the library organized and stocked to placing orders and managing renewals, there’s a lot to do when it comes to handling a library. This article presents different areas of library automation where emerging technologies can be used to reshape library functions.
In this article
The library typically plays a significant role in our society as it creates opportunities for learning that can promote the economic, cultural and social development of an individual. Given that the aim of libraries is to offer access to information, then why shouldn’t we experiment with new technologies to enhance library operations?
Automating libraries using various emerging technologies can ideally help librarians reduce their workload and increase the efficiency of tasks.
In this article, we shall discuss library automation and how advanced technologies can help transform various areas of library automation.
What is library automation?
Library automation can be referred to as the approach of using technology to automate various functionalities of libraries, for example, acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, and inventory management.
Here are some common reasons why library automation could be important for librarians:
- To improve the efficiency of operations
- To provide accessibility to books remotely
- To better reach the readers’ needs by analyzing data
Now, let’s explore different areas of library automation where different emerging technologies can reconstruct library functions.
Different areas of library automation
Enhancing the acquisition process through analytics
Library acquisition can be defined as the method of selecting and procuring library resources. In order to acquire materials, librarians usually have to evaluate readers’ or community’s needs, create a budget and buy resources. If all such tasks are performed manually, it may be time-consuming as a librarian would have to go through a long list of books/materials bought/renewed in the past.
However, technology such as big data can help librarians create a personalized user experience by analyzing readers’ choices and suggesting relevant resources.
By collecting and processing large amounts of data related to resources, advanced analytics can be applied to convert your data into useful information. For example, you may learn about the most-read books and frequent visitors.
With advanced technologies, librarians can potentially make informed decisions about library acquisitions by considering relevant data.
Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) for cataloguing
With RFID tags (uses radio waves to identify a tagged object), librarians can possibly log bibliographic items of books directly into their system. This, in turn, could make it easier for readers to look for the information, such as the author’s bio, subject and book category.
RFID tags can also improve how users search the catalogue by allowing them to scan the code directly and get all the information they need conveniently. As a result, it may drive personalized interaction between users and the library’s infrastructure and enable an automated library system.
Leveraging self-service technology for circulation
Self-service technologies can help businesses reduce costs and utilize data capture for various purposes, such as analytics and automating ledgers. Using such technologies, consumers can ideally interact with a service independently and whenever they want.
Public libraries can potentially leverage the benefits of self-service technologies to circulate resources. For instance, users can enter the library by scanning their unique ID card into a self-service device placed outside the library. Once entered, they can renew, return and borrow resources via self-service kiosks or access e-books and audiobooks in the library.
Using augmented reality (AR) to enable easy navigation
Augmented reality is a technology that augments the user’s visual experience by integrating digital information with their real-time environment. AR-based applications can, therefore, ideally improve what already exists and make it easier for users to navigate through the library.
For example, an augmented reality system may allow users to locate the exact location of a book with an intuitive digital interface on physical space.
AR can also make it possible for users to look for related books by scanning through the book they read via an augmented reality app.
Managing inventory with the Internet of Things (IoT)
Resources/materials in the library can be managed using IoT-enabled sensors. It can be possible to track the movements of each item by connecting the sensor to the internet. As a result, librarians can get real-time data on the stock of books.
IoT sensors embedded in the user’s library card can also potentially trigger a notification on their mobile apps if they owe some fine when they enter the library premises.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Internet of Things refers to physical objects/things that are embedded with sensors or other technologies and have the ability to interact with other devices over the internet. For example, a light bulb that can be turned on/off using a smartphone application.
Using IoT-based sensors, librarians may quickly receive the patron’s feedback as users can get an automatic notification to fill out the survey when they are about to leave the library. This could help librarians identify if users are satisfied with their services or not.
Once you decide which technologies you want to implement in different areas of library automation, the next step could be to think about how to proceed with it.
A step-by-step approach to library automation
Various aspects involved in automating libraries can be classified into the following stages:
Once the execution of a project is done, you should also potentially evaluate its success. Tracking the success may, in turn, help you understand modifications you might require and improve the overall efficiency of your project.
Using a technology that does not work well for your library may bring unwanted expenses. In this context, it is ideal to create a well-researched plan and budget estimate before you implement any technology.