College to Replace ID Cards To Automate Book Circulation

New bursar's cards, including a machine-detectable identification strip to facilitate a new circulation system in Widener Library, will be issued this fall.

Officials said yesterday that there are two reasons for the general reissue: the new Harvard College Library Record System needs a machine-detectable identification strip to computerize its circulation system; and, the food service validation stickers, which have been pasted on over each other on some cards, making it difficult to obtain a readable imprint on the present mechanical library circulation department.

Long Term

"The label approach was not a good long-term approach, but a new method has not been decided on. The original plan was for cards that last two years; they've lasted three years." Sterling I. Smith, Assistant Purchasing Agent and Insurance Manager for the University, said yesterday.

The new Widener circulation system is an optically-encoded system that uses a strip erroded with alternating dark and light bands corresponding to serial numbers to identify books and borrowers and store the information on a computer.


When a book is charged out, a light-encoded tape will be pasted in the book. The light pen from the information storage-decoding console will be passed over the tape. The console reads and records the serial number.

The call number of the book is then typed into the machine to associate the serial number with the call number. The light-pen is then passed over the encoded strip on the borrower's bursar's card to associate his serial number with the call number and serial number of the book.

$85,000 System

Officials said they hope that the $85,000 system will increase efficiency and save money.

However, the type of encoding strip being considered for the bursar's cards by Smith is a magnetic tape.

The Widener optical-encoding system cannot decode a magnetic tape, Judith A. Harding, circulation librarian in the Harvard College Library, said. The magnetic tape requires an additional decoding machine so that it can be used in the new Widener system. This will require additional funds, she said.

The magnetic-encoded tapes can be used in a lock-access system, such as the one at Eliot House.