With advancing technologies, many school libraries are now equipped with state-of-the- art security and circulation systems so that librarians can be released from mundane work to provide more interactive and direct services to both students and teachers.
Proven Security Systems
Both the junior and senior libraries of HKMA David Li Kwok Po College are using 3M EM (electromagnetic) Security Systems, which is one of the proven and most widely-used library solutions.
Mr. Chiu Frong, the teacher librarian, said, “There are over 20,000 items in our collection, including books and learning materials for the secondary school as well as various audio-visual items. Besides, we also hold a wide array of books and reference materials for students studying in the degree- granted programmes jointly organized by The Hong Kong Management Association and some overseas universities. The EM security strips are highly covert, and with the skilful hands of our student helpers, they are almost impossible to find or remove, which makes the items less likely to be removed from the libraries without being properly checked out.”」
But the EM systems are not without shortcomings. Mr. Chiu explained, “After checking out from the library circulation system, the librarians have to take extra procedures to de-sensitize or turn off the security
strips. Sometimes, especially when the counter is extremely busy and the de-sensitization is not done properly, phantom alarms will goes off and drag us into predicaments.”
Before upgrading or replacing the EM systems, Mr. Chiu can only remind the staff and student helpers to ensure that the de-sensitizing procedures are performed twice.
Two years ago, St. Joseph’s Anglo-
Chinese School was relocated to its new campus on New Clear Water Bay Road, Kowloon. The school library was expanded to twice as large as the old one. “Thanks to the extra funding for relocation from the school and the generous donations from the alumni, we can choose to install the most advanced RFID systems from 3M,” Miss
Sandy Wu, the teacher librarian, said.
“The RFID systems are surely effectively in preventing library items from loss. But, most importantly, they remind students that books are valuable and should be handled with care, especially when they are borrowed, not owned. Therefore, it’s a responsible way to check-out and return them properly. In addition, the public libraries and university libraries are starting to use those similar security and circulation systems, it’s good for students to get used to them earlier.”
Efficient Circulation Management
The RFID systems, similar to the EM solutions, can automatically track the numbers of patrons. Its detection gates can give audible and visual alarms without disturbing the tranquil
Miss Wu highly appreciates this thoughtful design, “One of our staff is hearing impaired. When the lights turns on, he knows someone needs help.”
Moreover, 3MTM RFID systems can process both barcodes and RFID tags as well as multiple items at checkout and return by just a single scan. With the Digital Library Assistant – a cordless, handheld device that instantly reads RFID tags, the librarians can efficiently identify items that were not properly checked out, or conduct shelving, sorting, and stock-taking with ease. The workload is greatly reduced.
After employing the Digital Library Assistant, Miss Wu decided to take the stock until mid-July. She explained, “We used to close the library for about 5 days for stocking taking. Now with the RFID systems in place, we only need 2 or 3 days. And, by deferring the inventory scan before the summer holiday, students and teachers can continue to use the library during the exam period. We can also give away old books and magazines for students to read during the long vacation.”
In Hong Kong, the school library of Renaissance College is one of the pioneers to incorporate the SelfCheck Tabletop System.
Miss Andrea Walker, Head of Library & Information Resources, explained, “We have all of the classes coming in for their English class. We also invited the Chinese teachers to come in as well. That virtually doubled the workload at the counter. By getting a self-check machine, we hope we can handle the volume without having more staff.”
The future development of school libraries
All-round security solutions and efficient circulation systems play important roles in the future development of school libraries, because they help librarians to pay more attention to the needs of students and teachers. All of the three teacher librarians talked about the challenges brought by advancing technologies and how libraries should become an integral part of learning.
Miss Wu and Mr Chiu both realized that libraries should start to acquire multi-media materials and electronic resources so as to suit the emergent learning style of the new generation. Miss Walker points out that the library is not only a place for individuals to study quietly, but with more flexible use of space, it will also facilitate students to freely read, conduct research, or exchange ideas. The main purpose is to keep reading fun, because reading has knock-on effects in enhancing other learning skills, such as vocabulary building, writing, and intellectual thinking.