Halifax Regional Municipality is spending $1.2 million to change the way people borrow books and videos from its 14 libraries in the city.

Under the new system, computers won’t read bar codes off books anymore. Instead, they'll seek out radio frequencies. Every library item will be retagged with an ID that will be read instantly using an electromagnetic field. It will give the system the ability to check in a pile of books in an instant.

Bruce Gorman, who works at the library, said it will now be faster to check out a book than to use the express lane at a grocery store.

"You take your shopping cart out, and check items out one at a time," he said. "In a radio frequency environment, all of those items in the shopping cart would be checked out in that one particular moment."

The change is being driven by the new library under construction downtown. Gorman said they expect to handle an extra 150,000 loans a month when the doors open next year.

"If we remained in the bar code environment, we would have to increase our staffing levels by about $250,000 to ensure that we’re keeping our checkouts at the same level," he said.

While it comes with a heavy price tag up front, Gorman said the new system will reduce costs in the long term.

"It’s a cost avoidance strategy and we will actually pay it off in four to five years."

The new system is expected to be in place by the fall.