Biometrics Secure Access to Library Resources

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 9 min read

Biometric library management systems are perhaps the most popular biometric system that has been adopted in educational institutions. When you take a closer look at all the benefits a biometric system can bring to a library, it’s not hard to see why. Such a solution has advantages for both library staff and the students who use it.

The problems with current systems

The most common library system, which biometric solutions have in many cases started to replace, is the library card. The card is used to verify identity and keep track of books taken out and books returned. They are a good solution, but over time and under stress, shortcomings start to reveal themselves.

One of the fundamental problems with a library card is that processing them at each transaction can be time consuming. At busy times, long queues can form as library staff scan and deal with the cards, or students fumble around in bags to find them. And that’s when students do find them – library cards are too often lost or forgotten by their users. Setting up new cards or replacing lost ones is time consuming and a drain on the library’s resources.

The other problem that emerges with traditional cards – is it’s hard to ensure users are using them properly. Basic library cards can be swapped and passed around between students and the system abused. The way to solve this is to introduce photo ids onto the library cards. It’s a good solution – but again adds extra cost to the library’s operation and slows down staff’s processing of the cards. It can be worth it though for libraries – as good identity management of their service can help them run as securly as possible by helping them keep track of their users and valuable resources.

How biometric library management solves these issues

First and foremost, adopting a biometric system can help libraries balance the books. They are a reasonably priced solution that save operational costs in the long run. Additionally, re-registration or lost student authentications is no longer a problem. Fingerprints are the most commonly used biometric and what we employ here at BioStore. They are the most convenient solution available at the moment – they can’t be lost, forgotten or stolen and are literally right at your fingertips.

A biometric library management system is great for the efficient running of a library. It’s a system that intrinsically integrates identity management. Staff can process requests faster and with confidence that the library account they are dealing with is that of the user who just scanned their fingerprint. Students benefit from a speedy and quick service and the staff benefit from a system that securely keeps track of their valuable library resources.

Adopting a biometric system, with identity management at its core, opens up the possibility for other services around the educational organisation to be implemented as well. For example, the same biometric fingerprint ID could be used to authorise and manage printing and copying in the library. Or it could be used campus wide to manage attendance and registration – instead of a name call at the beginning of class, users simply scan in as they enter the room. The list of possibilities goes on: cashless cateringlocker managementvisitor managementcomputer logon and more.

Tackling common biometric concerns

The key thing to remember for educational organisations looking to adopt biometrics, is to be open with the students and their parents about the exact nature of the solution. It’s not uncommon for there to be some concerns when they are first introduced. They can be overcome easily by being open and communicating straight away about how a system like BioStore’s biometric control works.

For example, a common concern is that the system keeps in its database, images of everyone’s fingerprints. This is not true. When a user is registered in the system – BioStore creates a template based on approximately 40 to 60 minutia points (the ridge ends and splits on a finger). It is that data that is recorded and encrypted and the rest of the image is discarded. There is no way that if someone did manage to get their hands on the heavily encrypted data that they would be able to recreate an image of the fingerprint from it. They would simply have a short string of encrypted numbers that are not of much use at all. You can read about other common concerns surrounding biometric solutions here.

The library at an educational organisation is a natural fit for adopting a biometric solution. Keeping track of a user and their activity of the library’s resources not only provides a high level of security, but also on a day-to-day basis, the library can operate quicker and more efficiently. It’s a good gateway for testing a system in a closed environment, before then introducing biometric controls to other services and departments.