Thursday, June 25, 2009

Special Libraries

The interesting thing about special libraries is that many of them are unique. Many are corporate and/or high-paying, but just as many can be found in not-for-profit organizations. What’s so fascinating about special libraries, why they’re so “special,” is that few are alike.

What is a special library?

According to the Special Library Association’s Association Fact Sheet,

“SLA represents information professionals who collect, analyze, evaluate, package and disseminate information to facilitate strategic decision-making. SLA's members work for corporations, private companies, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, technical and academic institutions, museums, law firms, and medical facilities.”

Now, this seems like a broad description, but special librarianship is a broad field. As defined by the Special Libraries Association, a special library is a place where information is evaluated, analyzed, organized, packaged, and presented in a manner that maximizes its usefulness.Many definitions of special libraries concern themselves with where to find a special library and not particularly with defining what they do. I believe this is because, as I said before, few special librarians’ experiences are alike.

Why do they exist?

A majority of special libraries exist to supplement an existing organization by “handling [its] specialized information resources (Molholt, p. 3). Often times they are a place where members of the parent organization turn to for very specific and very subject-specific answers (Williams). It is implicit that their queries be answered in a well-researched, fact-checked and correct package in a timely fashion. Being a special librarian requires a high level of dedication and thoroughness.

Other special libraries exist as a locus of knowledge on a particular subject. Certain libraries exist to aggregate as much information as possible on, for instance, the New York Botanical Garden (Callery). Even arts organizations like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on down to the Lansing Symphony Orchestra keep a music librarian or even a staff of them for the sole purpose of keeping track of who has what copy of which piece. Special libraries are a rather complex beast.

Is there a “type” of special library?

While the CSO hires special librarians, so do McDonald’s and GM. There is a wide variety, but we can break down special libraries in to common categories by subject matter. (This list was synthesized using a combination of resources from The Catholic University of America, the SLA and the University of South Carolina College of Library and Information Science.)

  • Art Library
  • Botanical Library
  • Corporate Library
  • Law Library
  • Local History Library
  • Map Library
  • Medical Library
  • Military Library
  • Map Library
  • Museum Library
  • Music Library
  • News Library
  • Nonprofit Organization Library
  • Personal Library (working for someone with an unusual amount of money and collections)
  • Et cetera.

A Very Brief History of the SLA


Special libraries have been around longer than we’ve been calling them “special libraries.” This year, in fact, marks the 100-year anniversary of the SLA. The association published Special Libraries Association- The First Fifty Years back in 1959, edited by then-SLA Historian Alma Clarvoe Mitchell. One of the first things the reader is presented with in the publication is a copy of the SLA’s founding Constitution, adopted July 2, 1909 (Mitchell, p. 4).

At the 75-year anniversary, a similar publication entitled Special Libraries Association: 75 Years of Service Reflections was published. A major topic of discussion was, unsurprisingly, how computers have impacted the ability of special and one-person libraries (OPLs) to perform their duties. A number of articles allude to the profound impact the computer had on special libraries’ abilities to handle and organize a large amount of information with the limited staff that often accompanies this type of library.

It is telling that the “object” of the SLA was initially to “promote the interests” of special libraries and librarians. Over the years the SLA has evolved to become an organization through which special librarians can share resources and ideas. At this point in history, its annual operating budget stands at $5.5 million, according to the Association Fact Sheet.

Work Environment

Much like special libraries themselves, a special library’s work environment can vary widely. In The Corporate Library: A Collaborative Space for Innovation, Natalie Clairoux discusses her work environment as a librarian at a pharmaceutical company. She spends her days “boxing away nearly half of the bound serials in [her company’s library], in order to make space for the construction of a high-tech videoconference room,” and answering endless questions using primarily the Internet and her company’s intranet.


This is just one example, but a topic that continually cropped up during my research for this blog was the issue of librarians having to justify their existence to their parent organization, particularly in today’s economic climate. With increasingly automated systems for information retrieval and a decreasing amount of financial, librarians are finding themselves on the defensive.

At the recent SLA conference, a group of students and professors from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park presented a paper entitled Saving Special Libraries in a Recession: Business Strategies for Survival and Success. The authors say that “one of the first places that many organizations look to make cutbacks is their own libraries.” In their survey of “survival techniques,” they found that there’s more to keeping oneself and one’s library alive during a time of cutback than doing good work.

“It is universally essential for special librarians to know the particular needs of other members of their organization, align library services with the organizational goals, and to aggressively market services to their organizations (especially the management).”

Special librarians occupy a very liminal space in the library world. They often work alone or with a very limited number of others, and they often work for an organization not run by information professionals. When they do interact with the administration, it is for a small window of time and sometimes this interaction is simply an email correspondence in which the CFO wants an answer and she wants it now. Not to seem completely doom-and-gloom on the subject, but special librarians have got to be proactive to keep their jobs intact. Joining the SLA for ideas on interacting with higher ups and for moral support is a good first step.

So why would working in a special library environment interest a person?

[As this is a blog post and not a formal academic paper, I thought including personal experience would be appropriate.]

I want to be a special librarian because of the specificity the job offers. A lot of people get doctoral degrees and learn a great deal about a given subject field, but being a librarian in a specific interest/subject area allows you to be closer to a huge collection of material on that subject. My interest in special librarianship involves film preservation. The ability to work in a motion picture museum, movie studio’s archive, 16 and 35mm film preserve or even as the librarian for a production company would be incredible. Imagine the access you’d have! Imagine what you’d get to see!

-Heidi Gustad, 2009 - 2010 SLA@WSU Secretary

If you have further questions regarding the SLA@WSU, please don’t hesitate to visit our website or leave comments with questions about our chapter.


  • Association Fact Sheet. Retrieved June 24, 2009, from
  • Callery, B. G. (1995). Collecting Collections: Building the Library of the New York Botanical Garden. Brittonia, 47(1), 44-56.
  • Clairoux, Natalie. (2008). The Corporate Library: A Collaborative Space for Innovation. Unpublished Manuscript.
  • Fletcher, Franklin, et al. (2009, June). Saving Special Libraries in a Recession: Business Strategies for Survival and Success. Paper presented at the SLA 2009 Annual Conference and Info Expo, Washington D.C.
  • Mitchell, Alma Clarvoe. (1959). Special Libraries Association- Its First Fifty Years 1909-1959. Special Libraries Association: New York, NY.
  • Molholt, Pat. (1984). Special Libraries Association: 75 Years of Service Reflections. Special Libraries Association: New York, NY.
  • Siess, Judith A. (2006). The New OPL Sourcebook. The Information Today, Inc.: Medford, NJ.
  • Szadkowski, Joseph. (2008, June 23). Library Techies: Beyond the Dewey Decimal System. The
  • Washington Times. Retrieved from
  • What is a Special Library?. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from
  • Williams, Robert V. (2007). Special Libraries Management Handbook: The Basics. Retrieved June 24, 2009 from


One final note: The SLA is (again) considering a name change:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Academic Libraries

History through Modernity

Almost no library stands alone. The role of the academic library is to serve the mission of the system under which it has been created, which includes community colleges, technical colleges, junior colleges, 4-year colleges and universities. However, libraries and academic institutions existed outside of each other for hundreds of years. Though the actual dates are still debated, the first public libraries in the world were established in Rome during the 4th century but the first university, the University of Bologna, was not established until right before the year 1100. (Budd, 1998) That was followed closely by the University of Paris and the University of Oxford during the 12th century.

At the time, the method of teaching revolved around a professorial lecture and student recitation, though sometimes a lecture would be turned over to the university to be copied and purchased by students. As more lectures were copied and more copies of older lectures were reproduced, a storehouse for these materials took shape. By 1338, what is considered to be the first (ancient) academic library, the library at Sorbonne (University of Paris), contained over 1700 volumes of lectures.

According to the 6th edition of the Encyclopedia of World History, movable type in China and Korea dates back to the early 11th century, though the ideas were not used in the west until the mid-1400s when Gutneberg refined the system for aligning text and printing using oil-based inks. The proliferation of printed text meant, not just more having copies of the same lectures, but that new writings, secular writings, were available and could be included into the curriculum. As more writing became available universities saw the value in having books that could not be included into the course of studies. Sir Thomas Bodley, a benefactor of the University of Oxford took it upon himself not just to fund the library collection, but to travel the continent to buy books on many subjects. (Budd, 1998) By 1605 it was noted to have contained more than 5000 books and manuscripts. The number of universities aided by the advent of printing, continued to grow and their curriculums broadened, reflecting a rise in literacy and a trend towards scholarship.

It was during this period in the colonies that Harvard University was established. In 1638 John Harvard donated £800 and 300 books to establish what we know as the first state-side academic library. In 1667 Harvard’s first librarian was appointed. Use of the library was limited to senior members of the university and the library was only open from 11 am until 1pm. (Budd, 1998) Access was limited as no catalog system existed until 1723 and even then they were usually arranged by size or donor. (Weiner, 2005) After the revolutionary war, some colonial universities saw a shift in curriculum, one that included the Enlightenment’s openness to science; those ideas were followed by the inclusion of literature and language studies, ostensibly, the arts. The perceived value of academic libraries grew along with the number of volumes, but there was no uniform system for classification until Melville Dewey began classifying books at Amherst College by decimal numbers in the 1870s.

By the beginning of the 20th century there was definitely a shift from collection and preservation, to utility, and academic libraries began granting more access to faculty and some to students. The increase in use meant a need for more services, extended hours and more staff. As Institutions took a more active role in funding library collections and creating comfortable facilities, the library became less of a place to store dusty books and more of a place for dynamic learning. Though, providing personal assistance was unusual and, “. . .the fundamental purpose of library instruction was to tell 30 (or more) students something at the same time rather than individually at the reference desk. . .” (Hurlbert, 2008, ix). For many years the issues of academic libraries revolved around funding, student access, and cataloging, issues which are still prevalent today. The recent increase in technology available to libraries and users of libraries, has created a whole new set of issues. The 20th century also saw an increase in memberships and specialization of the library associations of previous decades. The Association of College and Reference Libraries (“reference” was later changed to “research”) (ACRL) was established in 1939 and the American Library Association Council recognized ACRL as ALA's first division on May 31, 1940. (Davis, 2003)

Current Standards, Guidelines and Issues

The ACRL continues to support the needs of academic libraries through, publications and committees, and by offering standards, guidelines, and advocacy, similar to the ALA. Guidelines focus on the issues of access, staffing and continuing education for librarians, information literacy and instruction, collective bargaining and funding, and special collections and archiving. For the full text of ACRL guidelines visit

The current issues facing academic libraries today are similar for all types of libraries, they are ubiquitous in contemporary writings about libraries and mostly revolve around the affect that technology has had on libraries. The ACRL research committee has listed its “Top ten assumptions for the future of academic libraries and librarians” which almost identically reflect those issues in the Libraries Unlimited title, “Defining Relevancy: Managing the New Academic Library”. The ACRL list which can be found here: includes the digitization of collections, electronic access and the subsequent privacy and intellectual property issues, competition from online search engines, information literacy, value added services for the “new” student and faculty including distance education students, and the education and skills needed by today’s librarian to address these issues. As students see themselves more as customers of the library, the academic library of today is shifting towards a model usually seen in world of for-profit businesses. The role of academic libraries is shifting from providing the collection, to a the library as a destination. . .a place for studying, a place for research, a place for meeting, a place where students and faculty consume information. For today’s academic library to keep adding value to itself and to its host institution, it must continue to evolve to meet the comforts and demands of students who have a sharp sense of the world as a global community and who want to experience that from the comforts and conveniences of high-speed internet, WiFi, plush chairs, and the instant messaging gratification that they find everywhere in modern society.

Bibliography and Suggested Readings and Websites

Budd, J. (1998). The Academic Library: Its Context, Its Purpose, and Its Operation Englewood: Libraries Unlimited.

Davis, M. E. (2003). Chapter 16: History Retrieved June 21, 2009, from

Hurlbert, J. M. (Ed.). (2008). Defining Relevancy: Managing the New Academic Library. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Weiner, S. G. (2005). The History of Academic Libraries in the United States: A Review of the Literature. Library Philosophy and Practice, 7(2). Retrieved from

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let's Talk About Archives...

What are Archives?

When I think of archives, images of dark lighting, dusty manuscripts and library basements come to mind. This is a limited and often untrue picture of the profession. Incidentally, while researching for this blog post I visited the archives of my local library and they were located on the top floor and had excellent lighting. To the outside observer what differentiates an archivist from any other library professional may not be clear. On the surface while a librarian handles published resources ie. books, journals, or magazines, an archivist deals primarily in unpublished manuscripts and records. This information includes, handwritten documents, electronic documents, still photographs, films, government records, census information, and personal records/histories. The mission of archivists is defined as “saving the permanently valuable records of individuals and groups, then organizing those records in a systematic and coherent way, and finally ( and most importantly )to making those records and the information they contain available to users. “ (O' Toole & Cox, 2006) This is definition highlights one of the central aspects of the profession. Archivists seek to identify, categorize and preserve records that have long term value. It is not simply holding on old documents for preservation’s sake but in order to store information that is deemed to immediate or long term usefulness.

What Does an Archivist Do?

The duties of an archivist can be divided in to three areas. The first area begins with the identification, selection and preservation of the records. The archivist must ascertain what a record is, who or what is it about, when was it created etc. The archivist must then make the decision whether the record contains information that should be preserved. This decision is based on the usefulness of the information and not on the nature of the content. The archivist must then acquire the information and aid in the transfer of the records. Archivists are also concerned with the preserving of the physical integrity of the records. This includes the repairs and maintenance of the records. The second area is concerned with the organization of the records. The archivist must order the documents in ways that make intellectual and physical sense. The nature of this organization will be specific to the collection. For example, government archives are often ordered according to departments and or specific divisions. Corporate archives may be ordered according financial quarters. Archivists must be clear in their descriptions of the order used so that information can be accessed easily. This leads in the third area of the profession, reference. Archivists must serve as guide to the content stored in the collection. Often times requests for information will be sent to the archives and retrieved by the archivist personally. Archivists must also set and enforce any restrictions to the access to the collection. Most collections are non-circulating and some do not allow the public to handle the materials to ensure the safety of the records. Archivists also take an active role in educating the public in what the collection has to offer. This can take the form of exhibits or outreach programs that will inform the public about the resources that are available to them.

What Are the Issues Facing Archivists Today?

Archivists are facing a number of the same issues that other library professionals are dealing with today. One of the largest issues is the growth of technology and the expansion of the internet. There are several aspects of this issue for archivists. One aspect is that there is a growth in the amount of records being created. In the past as literacy began spreading throughout society there was an increase in the number of records being created. There has been another large increase in records being created as the internet becomes more pervasive. There is simply more people putting more information out on the web. The archivist must sift through this information and make discernments about what content will have long term usefulness. There is also an issue of storage and preservation. As the internet and technology is expanding and changing everyday it can be hard to determine what the best way to store the information is. The question is raised whether it is important to save the medium itself or if it is merely the content that needs to be saved. Storage is also an issue. Storage is limited for a number of mediums such email. Information is deleted and overwritten routinely to save space. This makes it hard to keep complete collections. There is also an issue of timing. The internet has sped everything up. People expect to able to access information quickly and easily and this has not always been the pace that archivists have been accustomed to. In the past people mailed in their requests to the archives and there was an understanding the process took time. Now people are looking to email, IM or fax in their request and often do not understand when their requests are not quickly addressed. Archivists must strive to make their information more accessible to the public and find ways to keep pace with the current times.

There are also issues of security. Since 9/11 there is has been greater concern about what information can be accessed by the public. Government archives are losing some records as they become classified information. There is also concern that people can access information that may be located in archives that is not located elsewhere, that is dangerous. There are blue prints for old buildings, or chemical components for explosives that may be located the archives that have been excluded from more up to date records. People believe that this information may be used to plan an attack. There have been the attempts under the Patriot Act to access data on the requests for archived information. Archivists must tackle the same issues of intellectual freedom that other library professionals are face with.

Why Are Archives Important?

Why is it important to save this information and organize it for use? Most of it is just mundane, day to day info. Why should we be concerned about the minutes of a corporation or the diary of local mayor? This information is important because it gives intimate insight into creators of these records. Corporate archives will allow someone to track the struggles and achievements of the company over time. Government archives describe how policies were made and what issues were important to the people making those decisions. Personal histories help us create a collective memory of events and time periods. Archivists look over all this information and pick out the information that will be useful for us in the future. They are able to order it all in a way that users can access it effectively and efficiently.

Gracey, K. (2006). Reviews - Preserving Digital Materials . The American Archives , v.69 no.2.
O' Toole, J. M., & Cox, R. J. (2006). Understanding Archives and Manuscripts. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.
Supple, S. (2007). Managing and Archiving Records in the Digital Era: Changing Professional Orientations. The American Archivist , v. 70 no.2.

What is a Public Library?

As defined by the Institute of Museum and Library Science, a public library is established under state enabling laws or regulations to serve a community, district, or region, and provides at least the following: an organized collection of printed or other library materials, or a combination thereof; paid staff; an established schedule in which services of the staff are available to the public; the facilities necessary to support such a collection, staff, and schedule, and is supported in whole or in part with public funds.

This is a very sterile summation of a living, breathing, ever changing, positive contributor to many communities. I prefer the definition author Will Manley uses, “I love the word “library”. It’s a noble word that carries a weighty and serious connotation. It stands for knowledge, learning, and scholarship.” (Manley, 2009).

According to the State of America’s Libraries report date April 2009, the nation’s public agrees. A Harris Poll found 92% of survey respondents viewed their local public library as an important educational resource, 72% felt the library was a pillar of the community and with an average of 70%, respondents felt their library was a community center, a family destination and a cultural center.

STRUCTURE: Most public libraries in Michigan are designated as a city, village, township, district or county library. All of these are funded in whole or part with public funds. Typically a city, village or township library will be a line item on the local government’s annual budget, whereas district and county libraries are taxing authorities and have the ability to levy a millage. By levying a millage, the library’s funding is far more stable than being on the receiving end of local government budget cuts.

In Michigan, public libraries are classified by size of service area. The larger the population the larger the class size. For example, a service area of 0-3,999 residents would be a Class I library like Mackinaw Island Public Library. Capital Area District Library (Lansing) would be considered a Class VI due to residents totaling 50,000 or more.

CERTIFICATION: Public library employees are certified based on their education. According to the Michigan Public Library Certification Handbook, “certification requirements are generally intended to assure that practitioners meet minimum levels of professional education. These requirements help insure that public libraries in Michigan are administered and staffed by trained personnel. The Class size of the library will dictate what minimum educational requirements certified staff must possess to qualify for State Aid funding.

The current certification standards were set by PA 89 of 1977 and will expire on September 30, 2009. Beginning October 1, 2009, there will be four levels of certification as opposed to seven which were originally mandated. One of the biggest changes is the lack of requiring continuing education for those with a Level 4 certification, or those with the least amount of formal education. I for one think this is a step backward. With all of the available technology today, employees would certainly be able to take an online class, view PowerPoint presentations, attend web conferences, and utilize where staff can take many free online courses. Continuing education is one area where not only does the employee benefit, but the library as well.

STANDARDS: In 2001, the Quality Standards and Advisory Committee (QSAC) comprised of the State Librarian and 22 librarians and trustees from around the state, was formed. Many in the library community felt if standards were in place, statewide goals like a shared vision for library service, could be accomplished. These goals would also help provide reasoning and ammunition for increased funding, help to improve service throughout the state, and would give libraries credibility. These standards then correspond to Essential, Enhanced, and Excellent levels of service. Originally these levels were to be tied to State Aid funding, but this has not come to fruition and QSAC is voluntary program at this point in time.

There are many issues facing public libraries, but that in itself would be an entire blog. I have focused on the most important issue I feel is affecting public libraries today.

FUNDING: As with all types of libraries, funding is probably the number one issue on everyone’s list. However, with the state of the nation’s economy, it is even worse. The majority of public library funding comes from appropriations from local governments and property tax millages, penal fines, state aid, gifts and donations and costs of services.

Penal fines are one of the most unstable sources of funding a public library. Any civil infraction and criminal offence imposed by the county court has fines and costs associated with it and these are considered penal fines. My library, located in Tuscola County, Michigan has seen a 45% decrease in penal fines over the past 5 years. So, the next time you are stopped for speeding, you may not want to challenge the officer because you are helping to support your local library!

State Aid funding is mandated by PA 89 of 1977 which states public libraries shall receive $1.00 per capita if certain criteria are met. Unfortunately, the annual appropriations for next year are projected to be $.25 per capita total. Nationwide, 41% of public libraries are experiencing declining state funding and additional reductions are expected next year. (American Libraries, April, 2009).

Gifts and donations can vary from year to year. Some patrons always think of their library every holiday season because there are tax benefits associated with donations. Others remember the library when loved ones pass away and memorials are given, but these are not a consistent revenue stream.

Cost of services include payment for sending/receiving a fax, making copies, rental materials, and of course overdue fees. Over the past year, my library has seen a 10% increase in this revenue source. More patrons are using the library as their home office and this translates into more copies and faxes the staff handles.

Some, especially non-library users, feel the library is obsolete. These folks have a narrow view of what the public library is today. They think it is just about books, they don’t realize the technology, programming, job search and community efforts that most libraries provide as part of core services.

This is where advocacy comes in. Past ALA President, Jim Rettig states “the similarities of all types of libraries are greater than the differences.” (Rettig, 2009). We need to support all types of libraries because at the core, we are all here to help our patrons.

A large part of the public libraries’ future rests with keeping current with technology advances and staff’s willingness to be all things to all people. “Public libraries have been America’s first responder’s to the economic crisis. They have provided resume writing workshops, expanded access to the Internet for job-seekers, and met urgent new community needs in creative ways.” (Rettig, 2009). Most patrons support their library because they see the importance and value of this facility in their neighborhood. To quote Manley again, “It, (the library) has soul. It is timeless”. (Manley, 2009).

American Library Association. (2009, April). The state of America’s libraries report. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from
Manley, W. (2009, May). Balancing the books. American Libraries, 40, 64.
Michigan Register No. 6-2009. State aid rules. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from
Quality Services Audit Checklist. Retrieved June 12, 2009 from
Rettig, J. (2009, June/July). Once in a lifetime. American Libraries, 40,8.
Survey reveals a decline in public library state funding. (2009, April). American Libraries, 40,10.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Biometrics and Your Library

A good definition of Biometrics is “The study of measurable biological characteristics. In computer security, biometrics refers to authentication techniques that rely on measurable physical characteristics that can be automatically checked.”

What does this mean to our libraries? Well, it could mean a lot. To make ID cards more secure, libraries could add fingerprint scanners to their location, so that the person who checks out an item or uses the computer is no doubt who they really are. A library could deploy other biometrics methods, including hand geometry or even by analyzing a person’s unique vein pattern.

One known library system has enacted fingerprint scanning in their facilities. In 2005, Naperville, Illinois purchased biometric equipment. The Deputy Director for Naperville’s Public Library stated that they spent three months debating the merits of it, if the benefit of using biometrics outweighed the security risks. Apparently, too many patrons were borrowing each other’s cards to access the Internet, thereby causing a demand for more a stringent identification protocol. Before the biometrics system was operational, The Chicago-Times Tribune wrote a commentary about the upcoming changes. In that commentary, Ed Yohnka, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, remarked: “"You're creating just another database of information about people. I'm sure they started out with the best of intentions of not sharing this information, but the reality is sometimes intentions go awry."

That, in my opinion, is the problem. Fingerprint scans may mean faster access time for the Internet, and it may mean that the three-library system of Naperville, Illinois can rest easy knowing that everyone using their Internet is truly themselves, but at what cost? Their patrons unique identifier is “secured” in a new database, but truly how secure is that data two years from now? Five? Or even ten? There is a chance that their patron’s unique records will stay unbothered, but if they are hacked into? Alternatively, the government could request access to those very private records. Then, will Naperville’s harmless intentions turn harmful? The fingerprint scans remind me of fingerprint records that police keep of criminals. I don’t think that association is a positive one.

I understand the usefulness of biometrics regarding high security. A retina or iris scan, voice recognition, all that is fine if you are working a job that requires precise security and high authentication levels. I do not see the need for these excessive measures in a library system. Was the patrons swapping and sharing each other’s cards so big of a deal that Naperville Illinois had to spend $40,000 plus dollars to stop it? I think that is an extreme tactic.

I hope that this is what other library systems are also saying as they consider biometrics. Naperville’s biometrics happened four years ago. At that time, Naperville was only the second library to have some kind of biometric system in place. Four years and no other libraries have installed a biometric device. Maybe all those other libraries have come to the same conclusion that while the system could be faster, it could also backfire and be negative and hurt their patrons. Maybe some libraries worry that if they install these systems, it will turn off patrons and they will lose pieces of their community.

Even if biometrics is considered too extremist at the moment, I wonder, as the technology becomes possibly less expensive and more expansive in other areas of our everyday world, will other libraries eventually crumble and install fingerprint scans too?

I hope not. Only time will show us how biometrics is going to be played out in our library arena.


What is Biometrics? Retrieved June 10 2009.

Kimberly, James. Library card? Check. Fingerprint? Really? (May 20 2005.) Chicago Times Tribune. (Electronic Version.) Retrieved June 10 2009.

American Library Association. Naperville To Launch Fingerprint ID systems for Internet Access. Retrieved June 10 2009.