In 2020, the Milton Public Library RFID-tagged its entire collection (over 31,000 items).
Milton librarians started RFID tagging in March, when the library was shut down due to Governor Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order.
“The timing of the pandemic actually allowed us to complete the project in a much shorter time,” said Library Director Ashlee Kunkel.
With the library completely closed for about a month and items not leaving the library, Kunkel said librarians were able to move through the collections quickly.
Items that had been checked out were tagged as they were returned.
What is RFID?
“RFID (radio frequency identification) allows for quick checkout and quick check in,” Kunkel said.
An item doesn’t need to be scanned with a barcode reader. It can be placed on a pad and an RFID reader identifies the item based on its RFID tag (sticker).
“You can even have a stack of books and the pad will read them all,” Kunkel said.
She noted there are RFID sorting systems at Hedberg Public Library in Janesville and in Racine.
The initial purchase of EnvisionWare RFID pads and tags were funded by the Arrowhead Library System.
Kunkel said that was done to help streamline delivery among the Arrowhead and Lakeshores libraries and make checkout quicker.
One notable advantage of RFID technology during the pandemic: it enables self-checkout, which means a librarian doesn’t handle the items during checkout.
“Our patrons love it and I think they appreciate the option,” Kunkel said. “The possibility is there for self check-in (like Hedberg Public Library), but we haven’t explored that yet.”
Milton Public Library purchased a self-checkout machine for about $4,500 and has yearly maintenance fees for the RFID pads and self-checkout. In the future Kunkel said the library will be responsible for purchasing more tags.