The Internet of Things has increasingly become a part of our everyday lives. While it used to be a source of wonderment to talk to our thermostat in order to turn the heat up or tell our vehicle to play a certain Pandora channel on our drive to work, by now, this kind of smart home automation technology has become rather commonplace.
One place that you might not expect to find smart technology is the library. Even mentioning the word “library” likely brings to mind card catalogs and shelves of dusty books, but enter into many of today’s smart libraries and what you’ll discover is quite the opposite.
Just like everywhere else, digital technology has entered into these houses of knowledge — and it’s enabling them to keep up with the fast-paced world outside their doors. Gone are the card catalogs and stamped check-in/check-out cards stashed at the back of each book. Now, computers, digital scanners, and wireless devices have taken their place. Today’s smart libraries are sleek, streamlined, and provide an unexpectedly modern customer experience.
Like any institution, it’s important for a smart library to be able to control and monitor who enters the premises and when they’re allowed to do so. One of the hallmarks of a secure property is one that utilizes security cameras to monitor, as well as record any events that take place. Security cameras provide an excellent way to review any unexpected incidents that may occur. When connected to a security system, they also provide law enforcement and rescue personnel with a way to monitor an ongoing situation (in the case of an active shooter, for example).
It’s essential for libraries and other tax-funded organizations to keep track of how many citizens are utilizing its facilities. This is why many smart libraries install cameras which can capture and track traffic patterns. They provide an unobtrusive way to easily record how many people visit the library. Staff can also break the data down to determine what days or times of day people visit the most. As many libraries around the country are cutting their hours, this is useful information to help ensure that the doors are open when people most need access.
Speaking of doors being open, book-tracking technology can assist with recording check-ins even when patrons return books through an after-hours drop slot. We’ll discuss this type of smart library technology in more detail in a later section of this post.
As with any other business or public space, camera surveillance should be integrated into any smart library system. First and foremost, they help deter unruly or unlawful activity when placed throughout the property, monitoring both the interior and the exterior of the building. This includes theft, but it also includes any other unwanted behavior or dangerous activities that might take place on the premises.
Should an incident take place, whether it’s the theft of library assets, some sort of crime, or an accident on the property, a smart library system with access to security camera footage has documented evidence of what occurred and when it happened. Remote video monitoring gives management and library security the ability to have a comprehensive overview of what’s happening throughout the property all at once. It also gives them access to remote monitoring from anywhere, 24/7.
The placement of cameras will depend on the individual library and the type of assets it would like to protect. Smart libraries that house historic documents and rare books should have those items under camera surveillance. Generally, most libraries should install security cameras near every entrance and exit, as well as in locations that allow general surveillance of the activity in the main areas of the library campus and its parking lots.
Mobotix cameras are particularly useful in commercial applications, as their flexibility (they can be used indoors and outdoors) and technology (motion analysis, moonlight and thermal technology, and 3D motion detection) make them particularly helpful in capturing incidents in a manner that the footage can be analyzed later.
Understanding Smart Library Technology
What makes a smart library “smart?” For years, libraries have been without their tried-and-true card catalogs, switching instead to computerized databases that take up infinitely less space and are more user-friendly than their cardboard counterparts. That was just one step in the library technological revolution.
One of the newest forms of smart library technology is physical book tracking through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags. These tiny devices send radio frequencies that assist with tracking books as they are checked in/out. RFID tags are also safe to use on audio/video materials that can be damaged by other tracking methods. They help lessen shrinkage, as tracking prevents books and other materials from being removed from the library without being approved or checked out first.
Current check-in/check-out systems at many libraries involve patrons having to stand in line and wait as each person’s books are scanned individually via a barcode installed on the cover. Smart library technologies like RFID sensors allow information to be read from the tags on an entire stack of books at one time.
This kind of technology also allows library staff to manage inventory much more easily. RFID readers can be installed in book drops, automatically checking in books when a patron drops them through. A quick scan of library shelves can tell staff members if an item is out of place or quickly provide an inventory.
In addition to all of this, tracking technology employed by the smart libraries of today can assist with understanding and responding to the needs and demands of the community. The sky’s the limit in terms of the possibilities: perhaps an Amazon-style suggestion list of books a patron may be interested in based on what they’ve checked out in the past? Keeping track of the kinds of books that are frequently in demand can also assist a library in knowing what to order in the future. Smart library technology is turning traditional book-tracking methods upside down – and in a positive way.
The Keys to Smart Library Security
When the staff and security personnel are on-site, they help keep a library safe and secure for its employees and patrons. Once the lights shut off and the doors lock for the night, an always-on security system ensures that the facility is being monitored from every angle in the after-hours.
Especially in larger facilities, it makes sense to work with a team of experts to create a true smart library security system. This will integrate things such as the door locks, motion detectors, security cameras, traffic counters, and even the library’s thermostats into one comprehensive system that is controlled by a single main source. Best of all? The system is accessible, both for control and monitoring, by library management via a smartphone app or by logging into a computer from any location.
Gone are the days when a trusted employee had to physically lock each door of the building, leaving the front door for last so they could type a code into the alarm system before scurrying out quickly. Today’s commercial alarm systems have a mobile interface that makes smart library security easier than ever before. Employees can control the system from the main keypad, but authorized users can also step outside and secure the building with a single tap. Should management receive a call that an alarm has been tripped, remote video monitoring enables them to check in on the library from anywhere.
That last factor is important: having a commercial security system professionally installed and monitored is essential. This ensures that everything works as expected and that if a sensor is triggered (whether it’s a glass break or fire sensor), management and rescue personnel will be notified immediately.
All commercial facilities must feature comprehensive security — just as they must keep up with the latest technology in order to remain relevant. Libraries were already houses of learning, but with the automated and digital technology being installed in today’s smart libraries, they’re growing more intelligent than ever before.
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