RFID chips will speed up the process of checking out books
by: Chase Allgood, Peggy McGregor places RFID chips in books at the Forest Grove Library. A group of workers are systematically converting all of the library’s media to the new system.

Libraries all across Washington County are getting tagged. And librarians are pretty excited about it.

The tagging is part of a $1.4 million project to upgrade the way librarians check in and check out books at the county's libraries.

Each of the 1.6 million books in the Washington County Cooperative Library network is getting a radio frequency identification, or RFID chip slipped into it.

The chips track the same information as a barcode, but do so at a distance. That means librarians won't have to scan each book you want to check out, instead an entire stack can be checked out or checked in at once.

'What we're hearing is it enables patrons to check their things out faster,' said Colleen Winters, Forest Grove Library director.

Each book in circulation gets a tag and when the book is swiped over a magnetic pad it is registered as checked out. And security gates at the entrance of the library also detect the books - just like at major retailers.

'The reason libraries do this is to help secure your collection but also to enable library employees to spend more time in direct service,' Winters said.

Under the new system, Winters expects that librarians at Forest Grove will be able to spend more time interacting with patrons and less time checking books in or out.

Already, temporary workers hired for the project have chipped books at libraries in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood.

After Forest Grove, the workers will head to libraries in Cornelius, Garden Home, West Slope and, eventually, Banks.

Winters expects the transition to the new check-out system will be complete June 22. For the most part the project has been running ahead of schedule.

Winters said she's getting questions from patrons about what the RFID chips mean for them and whether there are any health concerns attached to the system (the World Health Organization says any concerns would be low), and other questions. For answers to those questions, visit the WCCLS website:

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