Rare book, manuscript and archive reading rooms are difficult to protect. Guards in reading rooms are often ineffective because it is difficult to spot a sneak thief unless you know how scholars work with these materials It is easier for librarian or archivist to spot the thief because they have a trained eye but unfortunately they have work to do other than sitting all day and staring at reading room users.

Rare books often have plates or pages with quality drawings that are valuable as art, and thieves target them. Their goal is to cut the plate out of the book then hand the book back to the librarian, concealing the page in their clothing. One thief even developed a way to insert the page into a stamped and sealed envelope and mail it out to himself. Manuscripts are even more of a challenge for security. They are folders consisting of many pages of materials pertaining to a specific subject. While every page is important, only one may be extraordinarily valuable and thus the target of the thief. If one item is removed from a folder containing a hundred pages it is labor intensive for a librarian to inventory and check each page in the folder before it is re-shelved And archival material may be delivered to the reader on a card and may consist of thousands of pages making it impossible to check each page before it is returned to storage.

In all three types of reading rooms it is unfortunately the case that a theft may not be discovered until the next user calls for the items and reports the loss to the attendant. And the next user may not ask for the item for years!
One problem with CCTV use in rare book, manuscript, and archive reading rooms is that video is typically only stored on local hard drives for a month but the theft may not be discovered for years. By then the evidence has been erased Hard drive space is costly and unless there is a skilled operator running the CCTV system who is also part of the reading room’s professional team, it is not possible to isolate the images from specific cameras and have them store the data for a longer period of time. Systems just don’t have that capability and still remain fully integrated.

The Acuity-vct system resolves that problem. We have written a special program that is available as an add on to your system. When the reading room user arrives at the reception desk in a rare book, manuscript and archive reading room or in any other special collection reading room requiring higher security, they are generally registered, present ID, and are assigned a place to sit.They tell the attendant what they want to see and the attendant makes a decision as to whether this material falls into a category of especially high risk or high value items. If so, the user is seated at a special pre-determined “high security” table. This is usually the table closest to the attendant where they can be observed better.

The attendant then clicks a box on the special program indicating the table number where the employee is assigned to sit.The program knows which cameras are viewing this table and their images are isolated for storage for a longer period of time up to the statute of limitations. The attendant then enters the identifying number of the items being used into the fields on the program. Each time an item is returned and a new item is called for, this is recorded in the program’s database.

By isolating images from a small number of cameras viewing justthe high security table we can drastically limit the amount of additional hard drive space needed to record and document handling of the rarest of materials and this reduces the cost of the system and ongoing service costs

Should the attendant miss a slight of hand theft of materials and it is discovered years later, it is possible to retrieve a complete list of who used the material for the past several years, the complete identity of the user, and a video archive of their use of the material. If the system is properly designed with enough viewing angles of the high security table, there is an excellent chance that the theft will have been recorded along with the date and time and other information The computer associates the clip with the database of items the thief handled as well as the identity information making prosecution much more effective
No other system has this capability.

Readers at other tables are viewed and recorded as well but their video data is stored for a shorter period of time. During the work day the attendant can call up to full screen any camera in the system and even digitally zoom in, even though the cameras are not zoom, tilt and pan cameras. Recording continues on all cameras even though only one is being viewed on the master screen.

The Acuity-vct is the world’s best system for library security.

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Acuity-vct Collection Watch!