Electronic security has checked into America’s libraries, thanks to radio frequency identification (RFID) and (EM) electromagnetic tagging, as well as barcoding. Some facilities are even installing self-check in/out security systems.

Even before such new technology, the library security challenge has always been there: patron and employee access control, asset protection and inventory tracking. More recently, the stakes have been raised — there are more people entering public and school libraries; thieves see value in property ranging from rare books and movies to DVDs; and decreasing library budgets push for more security automation.

The biggest hurdle, of course, centers on tight library budgets.

One security equipment company, 3M, provides help. The firm’s “Salute to Schools” program last year, for example, assisted school library media centers reduce the loss of valuable library resources by providing $1.5 million worth of much-needed security products to 100 schools across the country selected by the American Association of School Librarians.

3M gave up to two of its 3M Detection Systems for the entrance/exit of their library media centers and a supply of the company’s Tattle-Tape Security Strips for marking print material. 3M’s Salute to Schools is annually open to middle and high schools in the United States.

3M, among a handful of vendors, offer libraries security systems that typically include portals, tagging gear and computer software. The systems must accommodate unique in-library obstacles as well as “read” different types of security tags.

Can Handle Interference

The 3M Model 2300, for instance, copes with virtually all electronic “noise” and interference. Computers, photocopiers, fluorescent lights and energy management systems all combine to make life difficult for library security systems. The 2300 quietly monitors potential interference sources and electronically adapts to changes in a library’s environment. The detection panels mount onto a moveable baseplate or directly to the floor with the option of a buried cable or low profile wire.

Another security equipment manufacturer, ID Systems, also targets controlling theft in libraries.

ID Systems manufactures both electromagnetic and radio frequency (RF) systems and tags providing a wide range of products to suit the special needs of libraries.

The equipment from ID Systems, as well as from most other sources, meets “barrier free” access building codes for wheelchair use — an essential elements for public and private libraries.

No matter the system source, however, there are critical factors in choosing electronic security systems.

Critical System Factors

One is compatibility — a system should be able to handle a diversity of tagging options to reduce the need to changeover a facility’s legacy tags. Another is reliability — ranging from self-tuning and diagnostics to adequate technical support. A third factor is flexibility to handle custom tagging and articles other than books.

Of course, there continues to be innovations in library security systems.

One example: the Intelligent Library System from Checkpoint Systems.

With installations at many leading libraries across North America, Checkpoint’s system eliminates manual material checkout and return labor while controlling losses through electronic article surveillance and streamlining operations through non-contact materials inventory management.

The bottom line: Checkpoint’s Intelligent Library System lets patrons check books in and out themselves, automatically generating circulation data. RFID eliminates line-of-sight reading requirements, so staff can take inventory and check for missing materials with the wave of a wand. And books, audio/video cassettes, and software are safely protected from theft.

Concerning the security of assets other than books — audio and video cassettes, CDs and CD-ROMs, DVDs and video games — libraries also have specialty security systems. Checkpoint’s SAFER reusable security packaging products provide security in a durable, easy-to-use format made of high-quality polycarbonate materials. The product allows employees to place protected materials on a live circulation floor to increase circulation and enhance patron service and can apply security labels to SAFER packaging for increased protection.

Another provider of library security systems is DynaTag. Its diverse line includes one based on electromagnetic technology that boasts patented signal processing and no synchronizing.