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By the book.

When Beth Babaco, facilities coordinator for the Baltimore County Public Library system, was given a budget to renovate one of the library's fifteen branches, she jumped at the opportunity to enhance security at the Reisterstown site, located about ten miles outside of Baltimore.

With its high circulation rate and the community's growing population, Reisterstown needed an efficient but low-cost electronic security system. At the time it had no electronic protection and was experiencing a steady stream of losses from its collections. The branches that did have physical security had an electronic article surveillance (EAS) system using magnetics detection that Babaco said was considered dated among library circles.

Babaco says that she sought a system that would be compatible with the demands of high book and material traffic, so she chose an acousto-magnetic technology product from Sensormatic's Ultra Max line. It was more likely to detect theft, had fewer false alarms, and was less expensive than the security systems at other branches, she says.

According to Babaco, the new system cost approximately $3,000 (excluding installation), whereas other branches using the simpler magnetics solutions had paid nearly $5,000 for their systems.

With the new system, high loss materials are tagged with narrow plastic adhesive tags that contain two strips of metal inside. The tags are activated with a unique frequency that activates an alarm if passed through either of the two receiver/transmitter pedestals set up at the library's exit.

In many cases, a facility using EAS would sensitize and desensitize tags so that paid customers or valid library patrons would not cause an alarm to sound. However, with 23,327 registered borrowers at the branch and well over 50,000 library materials changing hands each month, Babaco wanted to adopt a different strategy. The library altered the traffic pattern so that patrons would enter through an unprotected set of doors but could only exit through the doors now guarded by the alarm system. When materials are checked out, the tags remain live and are handed to patrons on the other side of the protected field.

"The materials that 'walk' are the things that have a high street value or things that are high in demand," Babaco says. To keep the cost of the system down, tagging has been limited to those high-risk materials, such as videos and reference books.

Unfortunately, says Babaco, Baltimore County libraries do not have an automated system to track loss. It is a manual job involving the collection of data from the circulation database and a visual review of shelves.

Marlene Kuhl, Reisterstown branch manager, says that specific numbers on loss rates for tagged items won't be known until a systemwide survey, planned for the end of the year, is conducted. However, she says, an informal survey has already shown that losses are declining.

While the system has proven satisfactory in detecting theft at Reisterstown, the library has experienced some problems with the tags. They do "not adhere well to plastic," says Babaco. "Even if we use a really strong glue, someone could go into an area of the library where they won't be seen and pry [the tag] off."

"But we are very satisfied," Babaco says. "The staff is pleased with the system and say they haven't had a false alarm yet. They also have very good security training. We don't exactly walk the floors, but staff members in the stacks always have their eyes open."

(For more information: Shai Robkin, president, Vernon Library Supplies, 770/446-1128 or 800/878-0253; fax: 770/447-0165)
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Security Works; security measures of Baltimore County Public Library
Author:Neely, DeQuendre
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 1997
Words:589
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