Massachusetts Statewide Delivery Committee (MSDC)

Barcode Placement Policy - FAQ

MSDC Home - For information about this site and to submit comments, contact

1.    What do you mean when you say that the regions will be unable to guarantee delivery for non-standard libraries when automation is underway?

After sorting automation is implemented, items without a barcode in the standard location will require special processing.  The regions may find the expense of such processing prohibitive and libraries with large quantities of non-standard materials may be excluded from delivery service.

2.    Your policy does not explain how items barcoded prior to March 30, 2009 will be handled.  How will these materials be considered in terms of compliance?

At this time, libraries are NOT being asked to change barcode location retrospectively; however, in the near future; the MSDC will work with regions, networks, and libraries to design a retrospective barcoding process to prepare for implementation of automation.

3.    My library puts the barcode on the inside of the book.  It is on the same page or inside cover as the date due slip.  Have you considered how this will make our standard circulation transactions more labor-intensive?

We are aware of this practice; however, making the delivery process more efficient is essential to the ongoing support of this service.  We suggest that you consider alternatives such as placing an extra barcode externally as we request (in addition to your internal barcode); using a receipt of slip-in date due slip instead of stamping an internal date due slip; or emailing the date due to patrons.

4.    Certain materials in our library have a call number on the top-left front cover.  Would it be ok to put the barcode on the top-right front cover for certain materials?  For example, thin materials that lack a spine or media.

It will be most efficient if all barcodes are in the same location.  We understand that libraries often put a call number on the front cover of thinner items.  We ask that all libraries make their best effort to place barcodes on the top-left front cover of all items.

5.    My library has taken a page from the successful promotional practices of large bookstores by displaying new materials when possible with the full cover exposed. In this way we take advantage of the PR value of attractive cover art that is designed to attract buyers (in the case of book sellers) and patrons (in the case of libraries). The placement of a distracting and all-business looking barcode on the front of each book works against our efforts to capitalize on the art & graphics of the cover. In my opinion placement on the back of the cover would achieve the same uniformity of location and ease of access to the barcode required of automated sorting systems, without loosing the opportunity for attractive display of materials which we have exploited, with great success, over the past few years.

We agree that there are both pros and cons to designating the front of the item as the barcode location.  Our chief reason for selecting the front was to avoid all confusion with the preprinted barcodes on the back of almost every new book purchased.  The automation processes we are considering could be slowed if an automated materials handling system or its operator has to scan two barcodes or make a decision about which barcode on the back cover to scan.

A workaround we suggest is that for new items that are not available for delivery to another library, place the barcode on the back.  When the item ages, please put a second barcode on the top-left front cover.  The MSDC will investigate barcode options that might be less conspicuous but still effective in an automated environment to allow for display of items face-out.  Since most all materials ARE available for request, I’m not sure we should make this a suggestion.

6.    Can the barcode be moved down a little to avoid covering part of a title or author’s name on the cover of an item?

If this is really necessary to identify the item, it is acceptable.  However, if the item is shelved on a standard shelf and not cover out, we suggest top-front left cover as the barcode location. 

7.    My library puts the barcode for media inside to insure that circulation staff verify that the media is in the container. This placement has allowed us to substantially reduce loss of material, whether it is due to inadvertent error or by intention on the part of the patron.  Our automated system includes a "pop-up" reminder for staff to check the contents of the case, but we see significant improvements to loss statistics when we employ the 2-step procedure.  Once the item is Checked In and shelved, we have no recourse for recovering items that are missing from cases.  Circulation Desk managers need to be attentive and creative when dealing with the human side of materials processing.

The MSDC is looking at efficiency and ergonomics for delivery workflows in libraries.  We will include a review of this practice and try to identify other cues, training techniques, and/or system enhancements that could help to avoid problems in this part of the workflow.  In the meantime, because media is such a large part of delivery volume, we ask that you begin barcoding them as per the policy.  Please let us know if problems are numerous or if you identify any solutions.

8.    Why are we still dealing with barcodes?  Shouldn’t we be moving to RFID?

The automation we are considering will need to be compatible with both barcodes and RFID tags.  At the present time we ask libraries that have or plan to implement RFID to also place a barcode on the top-front left cover of each item.  This will maintain compatibility with future automation and with libraries that have not yet gone to RFID.  The MSDC needs to plan to address RFID standards to ensure compatibility especially since there exist emerging standards for library RFID that hold promise of allowing for even more efficient processing.

9.    Have you heard whether or not high school libraries who do not yet ILL, should begin to follow the new barcode placement policy?

This policy was announced for libraries that participate in regional delivery services.    Other libraries are not required to follow it.  However, we are implementing these policies to improve future efficiency.  It might be worth considering.