Contributed by Jennifer Ogorda, Collection Development Librarian
It was a hot day when the Romeo P. Ariniego, MD Library team arrived at the Land of the Lion, Singapore. It had one mission: visit three advanced libraries in the city for benchmarking and to acquire knowledge on the latest technology regarding library services.
The first stop is the National Library of Singapore, a public library that caters to the general public and tourists in Singapore. It manages 25 public libraries and the National Archives. What was interesting in this library is the self-service borrowing and returning of books. Specialty machines are installed so users could check out the book themselves. Conversely, book drops are strategically placed in the exits where users could return the books borrowed. These are great DIY ideas using technology. The National Library of Singapore also maintains the first world’s green library for kids. This children’s library highlights interactive games and activities that promote caring for the environment. Its interior also features environment themes and uses eco-friendly materials.
Second in the list is the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine of the Nanyang Technological University. This library places emphasis on building their medical collection in electronic format. It was really amazing that this library, in fact, operates 24/7 even if they only have two personnel. How do they manage it? Through radio-frequency identification (RFID) and self-service check-in and check-out counters.
The third and last stop is the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine of the National University of Singapore. Similar to NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Library, this library has self-service counters for borrowing and returning of books, photocopying and even paying for library fines with the use of their ATM, credit cards, and prepaid cards. The reading area is also open 24/7.
The team visited only three libraries but there are more libraries in Singapore that use innovative ways to serve their patrons. But what do these libraries have in common? It’s the use of RFID. According to Shahid (2005), “RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) allows an item, for example a library book, to be tracked and communicated with by radio waves.” He furthered that “RFID can be used in library circulation operations and theft detection systems. RFID-based systems move beyond security to become tracking systems that combine security with more efficient tracking of materials throughout the library, including easier and faster charge and discharge, inventorying, and materials handling (Boss 2004).” Self-service counters that check in and check out books are powered by RFID. Reading areas could be opened 24/7 and security is maintained through the use of RFID – RFID-enabled books that were not checked out trigger the alarm at the gate and bars it from opening and only bona fide patrons of the library could enter the reading area by swiping their RFID-enabled identification cards.
The De La Salle Health Sciences Institute, together with the RPAMDLS, will soon be implementing RFID for improved service and security. For the library users, this could mean no long queues to borrow or return a book, no need to go to the library just to pay fines, improved security, faster service, and hopefully, reading areas with longer hours of operation.
The library team is hopeful that through the learnings from this benchmarking tour, RPAMDLS would be able to bring better and innovative service to its users.
Shahid, S. M. (2005). Use of RFID Technology in Libraries: a New Approach to Circulation, Tracking, Inventorying, and Security of Library Materials. Library Philosophy and Practice 8(1) Fall 2005.