Case Story: Melle City Library

An accessible city library for patrons, employees, and volunteers

By switching to RFID technology from Lyngsoe Systems, the city library took a major step forward and now looks forward to the future and new developments with confidence.

About Melle City Library

Melle is a medium-sized town in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) with around 48,200 inhabitants. With over 70,000 visits a year, the city library is a popular meeting place in the middle of the city center and has established itself as an institution that draws people from all over the region. It is important for the library to be widely used and accessible to everyone yet remain a protected sphere free of commercial interests.

The initial situation

The accessibility of the city library

Before the RFID conversion started, the materials were booked and secured using barcodes and magnetic strips. This technology was on its way out and some of the machines were so outdated that they could not be replaced in the event of a failure. Modernization was so long overdue that it seriously hindered efforts to provide up-to-date service. While the focus was initially on technical modernization, reacting to the overarching social transformation (digitization, demographic change, flexibility, individualization) became the main argument for automating the booking processes in the years that followed.

As the digital revolution continues to change, so too do the demands on the public library’s service delivery. In addition to the expansion of virtual services, the demand for the quality of advice and the quality of spending time at the library as a “third place” is also increasing.

The accessibility of the city library should be geared towards the changing living conditions and lifestyle habits of customers. However, keeping it open for 35 hours a week is only possible with the support of volunteers. In addition to five employees, 25–30 volunteers are involved and form the “heart and backbone” of the city library.

Here, too, social change led to fewer candidates and less time being spent volunteering, while the complexity of requirements increased at the same time. The regular lending service was time-consuming and required a strong commitment on the part of volunteers. Due to the coronavirus crisis, regular over-the-counter services were also problematic in terms of infection control and responsibility.

In order to comply with the minimum distances for employees and library customers, one of the two booking spaces had to be closed. This made it more important to work at a fast pace to prevent long queues from forming.

The mission

The considerations

The switch to RFID technology and self-service machines were intended to provide relief. The reduction in working hours through automated lending should enable a shift in the focus of work, an adaptation of volunteering, and an optimization of service.

For a thought-through conversion to self-service equipment that works well in the long term, a need was identified for two self-service machines for lending and account viewing, a return station, a collection cabinet for reserved items, a ticket machine and a security gate with integrated visitor counting.

Various options were weighed in the search for a tailor-made solution for a  self-service kiosk. Key considerations were ergonomics for customers and employees and keeping barriers to a minimum. In addition, the desire for a modern and “tidy” look also played a major role. The return station is located directly in the entrance area of the city library, making it crucial for shaping visitors’ first impressions.

The need for a solution for quickly transporting the materials directly to the employee’s office quickly became apparent.

Until now, only large-scale libraries were known to have such machines. However, the project managers came to the conclusion that a significant increase in quality would also be possible for the Melle City Library with such a solution.

The funding

When they found out about the “WissensWandel” (“Knowledge Transformation”) funding program of the German Library Association (dbv), this wish suddenly became within reach and the decision was made to apply during the ongoing process. The program is part of the German Federal Government’s officers for culture and media’s NEUSTART CULTURE rescue and future program and supports measures to create and expand sustainable digital services in publicly accessible libraries.

The application was successful. The Melle City Library received the highest possible funding amount. This support made it possible to put out a tender for a self-service kiosk with a small sorting station.


Tagging 37,000 items over 3 months

For the RFID conversion, all items first had to be given RFID labels and the information had to be transferred from the barcode to them. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the full-time employees and volunteer staff, the inventory of over 37,000 items were converted within just three months during ongoing library operations at the end of 2021.

In spring 2022, a tender was put out for the RFID self-service kiosks and several RFID pads for the workstations. Lyngsoe Systems was awarded the contract and planning for the implementation began immediately.

Unfortunately, the worldwide supply bottlenecks did not spare the project at that time and the planned installation date had to be postponed. Preparations were made in close contact in the interim, so that the final connection of the machines could be carried out quickly and easily.

One positive aspect worth pointing out is that communication with Lyngsoe Systems has always been open, trusting, and solution-oriented. This meant that despite the adversity, the city library was always up-to-date and the joy was all the greater when all components were delivered, installed, and commissioned shortly afterward in September 2022.

The new self-service kiosk

New welcoming design

Since then, the Melle City Library now shines in a new splendor. Previously dominated by a counter for personal booking, the entrance area has been transformed into a modern and inviting self-service zone. In the course of the renovation work, a new room was created in which returned materials can be transported into and processed directly, and its wall is the perfect place for the new equipment. Thanks to the freedom in color design, the components blend harmoniously into the overall appearance and create an attractive eye-catcher when entering the library.

The situation at present

Overwhelmingly positive response from both customers and employees

The positive response has been overwhelming. Initial skepticism among some customers quickly disappeared after they tried the machines and discovered how easy and self-explanatory they were to use. Some even said they had fun doing the booking themselves. People also liked the fact that the machines were height-adjustable and children, in particular, are delighted to be able to participate in the booking. On the whole, waiting times for customers have been drastically reduced by separating borrowing, return, pick-up, and information and advice.

The employees of the city library are also relieved by how easy it is to work with the new technology. This change takes a lot of weight off their shoulders. In addition to reducing staffing requirements at the counter through customer self-service, internal business processes can also be made significantly more efficient through batch booking.

The Library Mate 5000 self-service station with a small sorting station that leads directly to the employee office completes the approach of using automation consistently and relieving the strain on employees. On the one hand, it prevents unnecessary travel with the book trolley, as the materials are directly at the workplace and can be processed there on the flexible and maneuverable Ergo Carts.

This not only relieves the strain on employees in terms of time, but also physically, and also enables low-contact working methods in times of the pandemic. On the other hand, the first coarse sorting to three chutes saves time and shows that a sorter in a smaller library is an asset.

The results

Better able to fulfill its role as a regional service institution

The components have already proven their reliability and robustness in daily operation, so the Melle City Library will enjoy them for a long time to come. The time saved by automation makes it possible to focus on providing good advice and should also be used to put more work into events in the future. In addition, a more flexible division of working hours is now conceivable, especially for volunteers.

Opening hours can now be maintained or even extended in the long term. It is now realistic to introduce a service-free period during which the self-service machines can be used without workers being tied up at the counter. The added value is already becoming apparent. Previously, there was no option to check out and return materials during events at the library that were out of hours. Thanks to the self-service machines, this is now possible and – according to initial experiences – also put to regular use.

By maintaining or expanding its opening hours, the library will be better able to fulfill its role as a regional service institution. Visitors, who wish to use the library as a place to spend time, and visitors from other districts and villages with long journeys will be the main beneficiaries.

By switching to RFID technology from Lyngsoe Systems, the city library took a major step forward and now looks forward to the future and new developments with confidence.

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