The Thunder Bay Public Library hopes a new barcode technology will encourage visitors to use the self-checkout stations.

The library is investing in radio frequency identification (RFID), which will make scanning books easier at the checkout. The technology is already commonplace in the retail sector. Canadian libraries started adopting the technology a decade ago.

Currently, a book’s barcode must be lined with the laser beam for the computer to recognize the item. With RFID, each book sends out a unique frequency and the borrower can simply place the items on a special surface, allowing the computer to identify them.

The technology will give staff more time to help clients find the books they are interested in instead of spending time at the checkout, according to Barb Philp, head of Adult Services at the library.

"People like talking about books," she said, "This will free up staff to talk to people about books and to meet them out in what we call the stacks to better serve them."

Philp clarified that the new system will not replace staff. Instead, the library will be redirecting staff to outreach and other community programs.

Adopting the new barcode system is the natural next step in the evolution of library services, Philp said.

"We're no longer a warehouse of books. We are a public space that is being used for many, many different society engagements," she told CBC Thunder Bay.

The new technology will be implemented when the County Park branch moves to its new location. The system will then be expanded to the other library locations.