May 22nd, 2008

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Brookline Library RFID

I'm surfacing from a busy week to talk about an issue that I'll be voting on next week as a member of Brookline Town Meeting. As it so happens, it's an issue I support as a member of the Board of Library Trustees.

This year, the Trustees would like to begin implementing a radio frequency identification system, otherwise known as RFID, to make it easier for library patrons to check materials in and out of the library. Although the Trustees and the Board of Selectmen support the RFID program, the town's Advisory Committee did not, so those of us on the Board of Trustees have been making our case to the members of Town Meeting.

We're also making our case to the citizens of the town. In today's Brookline TAB, we published an op-ed piece, RFID: The right tool for the job. If you're a citizen of the town, we hope you will read the piece, agree with us that RFID is important, and then contact your 15 Town Meeting Members and ask them to support the RFID in next Tuesday's vote. You can find a precinct-by-precinct listing of your representatives, along with contact information, at the Brookline TMM Precinct Listing.

A few relevant facts:

The Trustees are asking for $465,000 to be appropriated to implement a radio frequency identification system for checking library materials in and out.

The funds we're requesting are funds that the town has set aside specifically for one-time capital expenditures. Bring RFID technology to Brookline this year has actually been part of our capital improvement plan for about five years now; by sheer chance, the year we were planning to request the funds coincided with the override. These funds cannot be used for anything other than capital expenditures; it's not as if we could have used them to stave off the need for an override vote. But spending this money now may help us save money in the long run.

Library circulation has doubled in the last 14 years, and library staff has decreased by four employees in that same time. Without implementing RFID, we believe that a continued rise in circulation will force us to add staff or reduce services.

The Cambridge and Wellesley libraries, which are also both part of the Minuteman network, will have full funding to move forward with RFID this year. Sudbury also is planning to begin implementation this year. With Brookline added, we will have more influence on how the new technology is adopted.

Again, if you live in Brookline, I hope you'll support the RFID vote.