Security of every book’ is one of the first concerns of libraries across the US. Thus they deploy scalable and reliable security systems that help librarians manage books and inventory. The average rate of book loss in the US libraries in a year is a mere 4%, whereas in India due to the lack of proper security systems and staff, book loss at libraries is close to 10% to 15%. Poorly managed universities in the interior part of India face even greater book losses. Experts say 4% loss of books is considered to be a genuine rate and is inevitable. In India, due to lack of proper systems, theft of books and frisking of students is commonly seen in a number of educational institutes and libraries. Books that are stolen from libraries are normally of high value or are not available easily outside. While the range is between Rs 250 to Rs 5,000, the average rate of a book lost from libraries is estimated at Rs 2,000.
To overcome these problems a number of companies such as 3M and Checkpoint have come up with security systems to ensure the security of books and also to catch hold of any theft. These systems help protect people and assets and facilitate the merchandising, tracking and securing of books at key checkpoints and have been used in the US for the past 30 years.
According to Ravi Chandwani, General Manager, 3M India Ltd, “In addition to giving a world-class image, the measurable benefits of using library security systems are reduced loss of books and less expenses on the security staff, whereas the non-measurable benefits are faster checkout of visitors and more time for librarians to help the patrons search for quality material.”
With product costs between Rs 2,00,000 to Rs 10,00,000 for a library of 10,000 books, depending on the functionality of the device, these devices are ideal for large libraries. Some early adopters have been IIT Mumbai and ISB Hyderabad that have been using these systems from 2000 and 2003 respectively. With a collection of over a lakh books and thousands of daily visitors, these libraries are effectively managing their inventories with library security products that help the librarians in stock taking, faster issue and return, by using electronically charged RFID tags which do not fail and help in case the library wants to operate 24/7.
However, as it is said, no technology is foolproof, so, the library security system guarantees 80% reduction in book loss but does not ensure safety of individual pages of books. At NIFT Delhi, a 70% reduction in book loss has been seen. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai on the other hand with over 1,00,000 books, now face a loss of only 0.3%. Muthia, chief librarian of Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai says, “When students find books in the library which are otherwise not easily available they want to have it and it leads to stealing and hiding. The electrically charged radio frequency identification (RFID) tags help us in tracking the misplaced book.”
Other than books being stolen, libraries also face loss due to pages being torn from books. “If the ‘tattle tape’ security strip does not touch the pages properly, they can be torn and stolen. This is why we recommend pasting the tape at the spine of the book,” said Chandwani. Muthia adds, “Students or readers in the absence of sufficient staff might steal books, this is where the 3M system helps us,” Muthia added. So as India is moving towards improving the infrastructure at its colleges and universities and focusing on technological advancement, a desired outcome would be more secure libraries with world-class facilities.
—The author is pursuing BA in journalism from Delhi University and did a summer internship with The Financial Express