Virginia Beach Public Library and Tidewater Community College

Learn how Virginia Beach implemented RFID technology across 11 locations and 2 integrated library systems transforming the way the library now operates in the case study below.

Introduction

Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL) is a large library group that supports the citizens of Virginian Beach, Virginia, population 450,000. The library boasts a large collection of over 1,000,000 items. The VBPL needed an RFID provider that could offer flexibility to tailor a solution to meet the complex requirements of an amalgamated library – operating with two different Integrated Library Systems (ILS).

FE Technologies, new to the US market, was able to offer the skills of its own agile in-house Development Team to create an RFID solution that would offer both patrons and staff a seamless user experience despite having two different ILS’s.

VBPL has 11 locations including a joint-use library with a community college, the Tidewater Community College (TCC). It is the second largest of 23 colleges within the Virginia Community College System. The college has 4 campuses and enrolled 34,000 students in 2016-17. The Joint-Use Library is a unique collaboration between Tidewater Community College and the City of Virginia Beach to combine in a one physical location the two libraries; two different ILS are in use; VBPL use Symphony and TCC use ALMA. A solution was required where the library needed a solution that allows the seamless circulation of two different library collections from either a single self-loan station or a single library desk. Furthermore, a payment solution was further required.

FE Technologies is able to deliver an RFID solution that provided all the benefits of a robust user-friendly RFID system that the library required, within a challenging combined ILS environment. We can do this because we are flexible and can deliver solutions specifically configured to the unique operating conditions of the Joint-Use Library.

Two systems, one problem

In order to amalgamate two different libraries – the VBPL and the TCC – into the Joint-Use Library, FE Technologies has had to develop an RFID system that effectively combines two different ILS’s, along with a future change of ILS. VBPL uses SirsiDynix’s Symphony and TCC uses Ex-Libris’s ALEPH but will soon use ExLibris’s ALMA 2.2.  21 self loan kiosks and 7 staff circulation clients needed to be completely compatible with this ILS environment.  Furthermore, VBPL has strict connectivity standards and does not allow simple SIP2 connections through the firewall. To accommodate this, FE Technologies provides a SIP2 Relay Service that is used to duplicate and merge the SIP2 calls between the RFID application and the ILS’s. This method allows the use of SIP2 between the ILS and RFID applications that ensures:

  • The capacity to replace any system without loss of functionality
  • And uses the standard FE Technologies RFID application therefore has access to all system version upgrades as they become available
  • Seamless user experience across both patron and staff interfaces

Solution – FE Technologies relay system

To resolve this, FE Technologies installed a SIP2 Relay Service that duplicates and merges the SIP2 calls between the RFID application and the ILS’s. This service allows SIP2 communication between multiple ILS and a single RFID solution that ensures:

  • The capacity to replace any system without loss of functionality
  • Seamless user experience across both patron and staff interfaces
  • The ability to access the standard RFID system and product and still obtain all the regular system version upgrades without requiring additional development work.
  • Even though the solution has been configured for the Libraries’ unique environment the architecture of the system is an open one, and allows the library too access all the features of the RFID system.

Circulation solution for staff in a dual – LMS environment

In order for staff to be able to perform both check in and check out activities, FE Technologies had to solve the problem of running an RFID application that normally overlays a single ILS – how do we provide staff with a seamless user experience with two ILS’s involved?

Returns

Opting for our Sort Assistant software for check-in added the functionality to use SIP2 to communicate with the ILS instead of a plug-in or API that would slow information transition down. The Sort Assistant is a unique Library RFID product that minimizes the returns and sorting time required in a returns room without the use of an automated materials handling solution. The Sort Assistant allows library staff to process multiple items in the returns room in a single step. The Sort Assistant uses a sophisticated color-based destination sort interface which also handles all exceptions in one single process. Multiple returned items are placed on the Sort Assistant’s RFID pad, and the system displays the sort criteria for each item via color-coded bars. Any item placed on the reader is immediately returned using SIP2 to the ILS (whichever one of the two the item belongs to). In this way staff do not need to know from which ILS an item belongs to – all returned items are processed seamlessly. The Sort Assistant automatically returns items to the ILS, instantly removing the item from the patron’s account.

In fact, FE Technologies is in the unique position of being able to claim 100% guaranteed returns accuracy! The various sort criteria include the following:

  • To be shelved in this library
  • Return to another destination (with destination details and optional transit slip)
  • On Hold for a patron in this library (with on optional hold receipt printing)
  • Sort by Call Number
  • Sort by collection code
  • Sort by Dewey Classification
  • Sort by location code
  • Sort by media type
  • Sort by SIP2 screen message

The Sort Assistant is the ultimate tool to streamline the processing of returns. It will automatically print on hold slips and transit slips for items to be sent to other branches. This means that the sorting of returned items is reduced from a series of tedious one-by-one sorting steps to simple one-step process. Even set management is handled for you by the Sort Assistant. The system automatically checks that all sets are complete and if any parts are missing this is reported as a separate color. It also has a tag encoding module, so any returned items that do not have an RFID tag can be quickly converted to RFID then and there in the returns room. It also has a tag encoding module, so any returned items that do not have an RFID tag can be quickly converted to RFID then and there in the returns room.

Issues

For issuing items, FE Technolgies has built a staff interface that is actually based on the software on our own Self Loan Station. Again, this solves the problem of running two ILSs at once as it also uses SIP2 to communicate with the ILS’s. It allows staff to use the same PC as the Sort Assistant is installed on, and perform multiple items check-outs just as a patron would on the Self Loan Station.

Additional Advantages and Features of the FE Technologies System

An outstanding User Experience (UX) for all

The library is slated to install the FE Technologies V5 Self Loan Station, the flagship product of our range – a stunning LED halo attracts attention to the unit wherever it is in the library. The color of the LED halo is customizable. It will also alert staff to operating conditions that require attention when the top of the halo lights up in a contrasting color. The customizable and intuitive interface lest users borrow items in one simple step. It’s designed to be fun, quick and simple, so patrons of all ages, education levels and ethnicities will delight in borrowing items and interacting with the screen. Importantly, patrons and students can borrow items from either part of the collection (VBPL’s or TCC’s) from the two different ILS’s with exactly the same seamless user experience. The large 23” touchscreen lets users borrow up to 20 items at a time, offers a choice of receipt options, and gives access to the user’s account for information such as items already on load, and reserved items.

Payments integration with Nayax

And to complete the integration and outstanding user experience, FE Technologies will be installing the Nayax payment system onto the Self Loan Stations. The Self Loan Station is fully integrated with the Nayax payment system. Payment workflows within the transaction will see patrons directed to a payment screen when a fine or fee is owed. Patrons and students can simply use their bank card to then instantly pay for the fee then and there whilst continuing with their borrowing process.

Conclusion

By using an agile technology company to provide its library RFID solution, the VBPL was able to offer both staff and patrons a seamless user experience at a Joint User Library that uses two ILS’s. FE Technologies, based in North Carolina, was able to offer dedicated development work to tailor a solution that works with two different ILS’s to deliver a single interface via the RFID system. FE Technologies is able to provide:

  • Compatibility of RFID equipment within a dual ILS environment
  • Full functionality via SIP2 within this environment
  • The ability for the library to still obtain standard system version upgrades without additional development work
  • A borrowing workflow on the Self Loan Station for both students of the College and Public library patrons that provides the same interaction and experience for each, regardless of the patron status or the items status
  • A specially-adapted staff circulation system that uses two adapted pieces of FE technologies software, the Sort Assistant and the Loans Software that communicate with the SIP2 relay service to allow seamless processing of both issues and returns from both ILSs.
  • Experienced, local and scalable project management and ongoing support and maintenance.
  • FE Technologies demonstrates that with our flexibility and development agility, with us, your RFID project really will be “RFID Your Way.”

Who is FE Technologies?

FE Technologies is a global provider of library RFID products and services, operating out our Head Office in Raleigh North Carolina. Our first RFID site was installed 10 years ago, and since then we have become the world’s most successful library RFID with over 650 sites installed to date. The FE Technologies range of RFID products has been designed in conjunction with libraries. We’re a relatively small company but with a proportionately large Research and Development facility. Our ability to offer flexible and tailored solutions sets us apart from some of our cumbersome larger competitors. The FE Technologies customers run their own User Group and meet regularly and operate an online forum where suggestions for new products and enhancements are put forward. In fact, FE Technologies’ in-house Research and Development Team collaborates with the User Group to create products specifically for library solutions. We conduct 4-weekly “sprints” where we develop and release software enhancements requested by customers, and we release a new software version every 10-12 weeks, free of charge. This means we can solve problems quickly and collaboratively with key library staff to develop a solution that specifically meets each library’s unique and individual requirements.

FE Technologies is new to the North American market, but already has a handful of library sites in the installation phase. Library staff and patrons might be surprised to hear an Australian accent onsite – that’s because we’re using our own staff with their experience of hundreds of RFID installations, to initiate our installation and ongoing support offer in the US. As we grow, we’ll upscale with our owning company Invengo International, based in North Carolina. They’ll support us with experienced RFID technicians as we match our technical support staff to the requirements of our growing customer base in the US.

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USA Office Details

Invengo Technology Corp 2700 Sumner Blvd. Suite 160 Raleigh, NC 27616

Sales: +19195 615177

Support: +19842 970011

FE Technologies Pty Ltd

129 Fyans Street
South Geelong 3220 Victoria Australia
PO Box 108 Newcomb Victoria 3219 Australia