RHS Library’s Sign-In System: Why Do We Need It?

Emilija Sagaityte

Earlier this year, students walked into the library one morning only to be confronted by four bulky computers, two on each side of the entrance, and by library personnel asking them to type in their student ID numbers in order to sign-in. For about a week, many students, especially upperclassmen who had previously enjoyed the privilege of freely entering and exiting the library as they pleased, weren’t afraid to express their complaints and outrage with the new system, citing this stray from the norm as an inconvenience. Ambling down the hallways, one could hear comments such as, “Well, the library isn’t an option anymore,” prompting the question of why the sign-in system was established in the first place.

As it turns out, Mrs. Wetzel and Mr. Stango initiated the idea after realizing the need for accountability to ensure student safety. About two years ago, there was a lockdown drill, and when teachers started calling the library and asking if their students were there, they weren’t able to get an immediate yes or no answer. There was no way to easily identify all the students who were packed in the spacious room. The librarians had to pass around a clipboard to gather the names, but with the resulting pages of random, scribbled names of students, some of which were not even in the room at the moment and were listed by friends, it was an exhausting struggle to figure out who was in the library. It quickly became evident that a better way to account for students in the event of a lockdown or a fire drill was necessary.

As a result, Mrs. Wetzel and Mr. Stango visited neighboring schools and became aware of the prevalence of sign-in systems at their libraries. Practically every nearby college and high school, including Downingtown, had one, using programs like LibraryTrac. Now, after adopting a similar system, the Radnor High School library staff can quickly look up a name and check to see if that student is there. This process also makes it easier for guidance and administration to find students, saving them time, and lets teachers know if a student they sent down to the library is actually there.

Granted, not every student always signs in, and often times, they may forget if they’re in a rush. However, some accountability is better than none, and the entire process seems to have become second nature for most, who can now quickly type in their number, press enter, and go. Mrs. Wetzel recognizes that not everyone was immediately pleased with the system, but thankfully, it seems to have finally been accepted. “People were put off, but that’s expected with change,” she stated. “We wanted to give everyone some time to adjust and tried to take feedback from the kids.”  The library did accept advice, deciding to not require check-ins during community periods or after school and changing the computers so that kids could press a key to sign in instead of having to click a button with the mouse.

I still remember momentarily sharing the thought with my peers that the system was a waste of time after being requested to sign in when I only needed to quickly step into the library to look for someone. However, the amount of time and stress that the check-in system can save teachers and students in emergencies far exceeds the few seconds it takes for a student to add his or her name to the list, making the library still a great place for students to retreat to during frees and community periods. Accordingly, even though we have become so accustomed to the presence of the computers that greet us daily at the library’s entrance and can easily dismiss them, it’s highly preferable that we all remember to sign-in—just in case.