Bar Coding A Library
Issues And Concerns

Rebecca Landau, MLS

Poster Presentation
Association of Jewish Libraries Conference
San Diego, California
June 25, 2001

Bar coding a library collection is a major undertaking. Before starting such a project speak with other librarians who have already gone through the process. Consult the vendor of your on-line system to order bar codes and scanners compatible with the system. Speak with the bar code hardware and software company to discuss the types of scanners available.


Bar Codes: There are two types of bar codes: Smart Bar Codes and Dumb Bar Codes. Differences to consider when selecting the type of bar codes to use are:

Some libraries use a combination of the two. For example, a library may choose to use smart bar codes for the initial bar coding followed by dumb bar codes for the remainder of the collection (e.g., smart bar codes for all books already cataloged in the on-line system at the time of bar coding and dumb bar codes for books that are added to the system after completion of the initial bar coding of the collection.)

Label Protectors: A label protector is a plasticized covering that serves several purposes. Label protectors are available from the bar code vendor.

The wear on a bar code label on the outside (e.g., outside book cover) of an item differs from the wear of one placed on the inside (e.g., inside book cover) of an item.

Location of Bar Codes: When deciding upon the actual physical location of the bar code, remember to take into account handling and inventory of items. Choices to consider are:

Placing the bar code on the inside of the book means that the book has to be opened every time it is checked in or out.

If you have Roman and non-Roman language books you may want to consider placing all bar codes on the cover on either the left or right of the spine. This means the bar code is on the front cover of some books and on the back cover of others. Doing this allows for easier inventory and for easier bar coding by workers not familiar with all the languages.

Placement of Bar Codes: Be consistent with the placement of bar codes on each specific type of item: books, videos, cassettes, etc. Choices to consider are:

If a patron self-checkout system is to be used in the library, the bar code must be placed in the correct position for the machine to read it.

Hours and Services of the Library: Are the library's hours and services to remain the same during the bar coding process? Choices to consider are:

It is important to notify readers of any changes in hours and services before starting the bar coding.

Manpower: A decision needs to be made regarding who is responsible and capable of handling various tasks of the bar coding procedure.

Regardless of the decision, it is essential to have written guidelines so that everyone involved in specific tasks is following the same procedures.

Copyright © 2001, updated July 29, 2015 by