Bar coding facilitates book borrowing

In preparation for the new library circulation system, some 153,000 books will be outfitted with "smart" bar codes. Student workers, including (left to right) sophomore Denise Delgado, junior Richard Pruitt and freshman Cheryl Payne, will make up the majority of the labor force that will complete this task during the summer. / photo by Brian Murphy
In preparation for the new library circulation system, some 153,000 books will be outfitted with “smart” bar codes. Student workers, including (left to right) sophomore Denise Delgado, junior Richard Pruitt and freshman Cheryl Payne, will make up the majority of the labor force that will complete this task during the summer. / photo by Brian Murphy

by Amber Neri
Staff Writer

As the opening of the new Wilson Library building approaches this fall, LEOpac, the new bar coding system for ULV library books, will soon be installed.

In an effort to modernize and stream­line the book borrowing process, ULV has opted for the computerized approach of using “smart” and “dumb” bar codes. This is not in reference to their IQ, but the capacity of the bar codes to tell the library staff and the borrower who the author and title of a book, visi­bly, on the actual bar code, and digitally, read by the computer.

For works like encyclopedias and journals with numerous volumes, only one “smart” bar code with the author and title will identify the collection. The rest of the volumes will be identified by the “dumb” bar codes.

With this system, checking out a book will be as easy as passing a laser over the bar code. The name LEOpac comes from the ULV mascot and “pac,” which stands for “public access catalog.” This system is similar to the type used in gro­cery stores and other retail outlets.

Installation should be completed by September. According to Dr. Marlin Heckman, head librarian, a time estimate for the 153,000 books to receive their pre-printed bar codes, at one minute per bar, is about 2,000 hours. The entire UL V collection consists of 180,000 works, including journals.

This estimate takes into consideration many books not needing a full minute of work because they are on the shelf in their correct place. But there may be books that have been shelved wrong, requiring extra time to be put into the system correctly.

According to Dr. Heckman, the sys­tem will pay off almost immediately.

“It is going to take a while, but this will mean no more manually looking through cards, because right now there is more than one place that we have to look when searching for books. This system will let us know immediately if you have something checked out,” said Dr. Heckman.

This type of tracking device will also help library staff enforce overdue book policies. Once a book has reached its overdue status, the computer will not allow the borrower to check out any fur­ther material, cutting down on the loss of books and speeding up the process for the next person to get what they need.

An ID card is all that will be required in order to check out a book. There will be no more writing down of names, box numbers and addresses, and no more signatures.

The library staff has had to struggle throughout the years to figure out names that have been scrawled on release sheets to try to charge for over­due books, with sometimes little success at deciphering the name.

“We’ll be using the address informa­tion that is already in the school system database, and when the overdue books are due, LEOpac will process the over­due books and borrowers every month with ease. This will save much time,” said Dr. Heckman.

The library security system will also be re-installed once everything is moved into the new building. It will also detect if books are being removed improperly to cut down on theft.

Another benefit of LEOpac is that there will be terminals in the new building, connected by way of the VAX to the Internet, which will allow borrowers to access the system, to find out if the books that they need are available.

Amber Neri
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Brian Murphy
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