Tips & Tricks: These topics are very important from the ICT exam point of view.

How can Computers be used in Libraries?

Many library systems are now computer controlled.  They usually involve the use of barcodes on the books being borrowed and on the borrower’s library card.  The following describes a type of computerised library system based on barcodes.

a. Two files will exist containing:

Book file (this contains a number of records made up of the following fields):

Barcode Book title Name of Author Date published Unique book identifier Borrower’s ID

Borrower’s file (this file contains a number of records made up of the following fields):

Borrower’s ID Borrower’s Name Borrrower’s details Barode of book borrowed Unique book identifier Date due back

b.  Thus, when a borrower takes out a book, the barcode is first of all scanned.

  • The book details are then found on the book file.
  • The system automatically calculates the ‘due back’ date based on the day the book is taken out.

c.  The borrower’s library card contains a unique barcode which is then scanned.

  • The book file is linked to the borrower’s file and both files are updated to indicate which book has been borrowed and when it is due back.
  • The date the book is due back is saved in the borrower’s file.  The system therefore knows when to send out a reminder to the borrower of the book if the return date of the book is exceeded.

d.  On a daily basis, the borrower’s file is interrogated by the computer to see which books are overdue for return.  The sequence of events is summarised below:

  • the computer reads a record from the book file
  • the corresponding record is read from the borrower’s file
  • it compares the due date with the current date
  • the borrower details are then found and a letter or email is automatically sent out
  • the next record in the book file is then read
  • and so on, until the whole file has been checked.

Barcodes are not the only way of tracking tracking books from a library.  Some systems use magnetic stripes on the borrower’s cards rather than barcodes.  The procedure is the same except the card is now passed through a magnetic card reader rather than being scanned.  The borrower’s data and book data are still connected as described above.  Some libraries use RFID chips in their books.

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