Smarter way to borrow books

Readers are now able to borrow from 500,000 available volumes at Shanghai Library using only their smartphones after a successful trial.

No library cards, no machines, no complicated procedures-now readers just need their smartphones to borrow books from Shanghai Library.

After an eight-month trial involving more than 2,400 of its foreign-language books, the library has expanded the service to cover all its 500,000 volumes available for borrowing from Tuesday.

Readers will no longer have to line up to use a self-service machine. Instead, they just have to scan the QR code on a book before taking it home. 

By the end of last year, nearly 2,000 foreign-language books had been borrowed by 940 readers using their smartphones in the first four and a half months of a previous trial without major technical issues.

Shanghai RFID, a local smart label system provider, improved the previous system with new technologies to tackle possible problems such as many people using the service at the same time and ensuring there would be no problems when the books are taken into a district-level library. 

A frequent visitor to the library, surnamed Li, tried the service on Tuesday afternoon. He told Shanghai Daily he felt it was much more convenient to borrow books using his phone.

“I no longer carry my library card with me. Frankly, the card is easier to be lost,” said Li.

“These technologies will also serve for building the library’s new branch in the Pudong New Area into a completely smart library,” said Zhou Deming, deputy head of the library. “There we will have a much larger reading room of about 4,000 square meters. With this system, there’s no need to place many machines and all the books can be taken home after a single scanning, which allows the readers to have a more convenient way and more comfortable environment to enjoy the books.” 

The new branch, still under construction, is expected to be completed in 2020 and open to the public in 2021.

Zhou also showed Shanghai Daily a book bag the library designed as a gift for readers. “After they borrow the books online, they can put them in the bag and carry them straight home.”

Xu Qiang, director of the library’s readers’ service center, said the service may be promoted to other local libraries. “So far a few district libraries have shown great interest in it and asked us about the technologies.”

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