GPS Usage and Your Library

Robert Balliot, the Ocean State Librarian, had some interesting ideas on how combining RFID material tags with the next generation of Global Positioning Systems (which will be able to accurately gauge a location to within 1 meter) could help libraries improve collection development, customer service and design.

For example, tracking the usage of reference books that don’t go out has always been a problem – we get around it by asking people to leave these materials lying around, and then checking what’s on shelving carts at the end of the day, but that means it’s hard to find some items that are left unshelved all day, plus someone has to count them.  Using GPS/RFID to gauge the movement of reference books could give you a much better picture of what’s being used all year round, instead of just during inventory periods, and would require less staff effort.  This could inform your collection development decisions for any materials that don’t circulate externally.

Or, think of your furniture and equipment in the library, in meeting rooms etc.  If you tagged them, you’d see the patterns of how people are moving and using these items, so could position e.g. chairs and tables in places your patrons prefer.  And maybe you wouldn’t need to replace your broken overhead projector or TV if RFID/GPS shows it hasn’t been moved in three years.

Maybe customers looking for an “in transit” book would hang around for 15 minutes if they knew your courier truck would soon arrive with their requested title.  And I love his idea of using it as a homing beacon to bring patrons to within a meter of their desired item, plus his tongue in cheek suggestion that it be used to keep tabs on the library director 🙂

How do you think this technology could benefit your library?

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