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Barcode Label Basics

What is a barcode?

  • Barcodes represent data through a series of machine-readable bars and spaces
  • Elements of a barcode give a reflective (space) or non-reflective (bar) response that converts to a readable character message
  • Each character is signified as a dark shape against a light background put in a specific order to form an intelligible message
  • The bars and spaces provide the easiest and most accurate format for scanning devices to recognize

What purpose do they serve and why are they important?

  • Barcodes are used to effectively administer a library system and its inventory by capturing and accessing information quickly and cost effectively
  • Barcodes are the most significant factor in ensuring successful operation of your library system
  • Barcodes can provide a high percentage of first scan read-rates and should be protected from abrasion by an over laminate to provide years of use

What information is important in guaranteeing that your library software interprets the barcode properly?

  • Library automation software is compatible with various standard library symbologies
  • Specific information may be required to be encoded within the barcode
  • At times special letters or numbers are required to designate barcode use (i.e. Patron or Title barcodes)
  • System software may also require a specific library number or institution code in order to be utilized

Which Label is Right for You?

Why Digital?

  • High readability and first scan accuracy
  • Printed with durable polymerized inks
  • Laminate provides protection against abrasion and wear
  • New digital polyester has tear-proof resiliency which is superior to any other label

Why Photocomposed or Thermal?

  • Photocomposed is considered the higher quality— the image is formed within the paper
  • Thermal is a heat transferred, permanent image
  • Both scan 100% of the time and provide long-term service

Why Laser?

  • An economical barcode label with high resolution print
  • Images are heat fused onto the paper via a dry-toner cartridge
  • Cover with a laminate protector to ensure years of use

Choosing your Label:

  • Symbologies: Code 39, Codabar or Follet Interleave 2 of 5
  • Formats: Library System Code and a check digit or sequential numbering only

Barcode Terminology


Equivalent to a type of language. There are many types of barcode symbologies in use. The 3 symbologies use most often for library systems are Code 3 of 9, Codabar and Interleaved 2 of 5. Many software systems can recognize multiple symobologies but some older systems require a specific type. If unsure of symbology, call your software company to get symbology type before placing order.

Library System Code

Is your 4-digit library code. The field will be filled with zeros if you do not have a library system code.

Start and Stop Characters

Special characters found at the beginning and end of the barcode symbol that indicate to the barcode reader when the encoded message starts and stops.

Check Digit

Is the result of a mathematical algorithm applied against the value of each character in the symbol message. Verified by the automation software to ensure the integrity of the data being scanned and virtually eliminates input errors. Usually the last character in the barcode before the stop character or in the human readable message.

Quiet Zone

The white area immediately proceeding and following the barcode symbol. It must be a specific size in order to allow the effective scanning of the barcode.

bar code terminology