Barcoding Project

Progress bar showing number of barcoded books

The barcoding project was part of the Bodleian Libraries’ Inventory Control Project, which is critical to the management of the collections and enables a more efficient delivery system of books and manuscripts to readers. We have improved the bibliographic control over our holdings by increasing the granularity of our holdings information, and enhanced the catalogue records (or provided them where they did not already exist!) to provide better access to our collections.

Between March 2010 and December 2011 over 100 full-time equivalent staff worked shifts identifying and barcoding library stock. They worked in the Library’s 11-floor bookstack inside the New Bodleian and also in a warehouse on a local industrial estate where nearly 2 million volumes previously stored in the Cheshire salt mine were barcoded at a rate of around 110,000 items - over 3km - per week. The Nuneham Courtenay facility also had its materials barcoded and the buildings closed.

The barcoders used mobile scanners and laptops. Once scanned, the barcodes went through a custom-designed program called ReBar, which not only records the information but predicted the next volume, saving time and effort. The barcoders average an impressive 30 seconds to 1 minute per item. Periodicals were processed using powerful spreadsheets.

The project was led by Michael Williams with support from staff in cataloguing and the OLIS team who are responsible for the online catalogue. A small team of staff provided technical support to the operations and designed barcoding tools and solutions, while another team provided supervisory control for the large teams of barcoders drawn from an agency.

From Exeter to the Bodleian in Books

The barcoding project had approximately 192 km of books to barcode – rather symbolically, the same distance as the journey from Thomas Bodley’s birthplace on Gandy Street in Exeter to the Bodleian in Oxford. Michael Williams has been using Google maps to show the barcoders' progress as a journey from Exeter.


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NOTE: This measurement is approximate and is based on the shortest route between Exeter and Oxford. For illustrative purposes the route follows a road map based on the accurate figure of books barcoded.

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