Like the books sold in bookstores, library books also have bar codes that contain information about the book. This information usually includes title, author, and publish date. While a 13 digit ISBN number is associated with bar codes on the books found in bookstores, the labels on library books have a bar code with eight numbers, where a series of bars represents only one character. Known as the Code 39 bar code, this type of bar code has been used since 1974 and has become an efficient means of cataloging books into a simple system. 43 different characters can be used in the Code 39 library bar code labels which include the uppercase letters of the alphabet, digits 0 – 9, and a number of special characters.
Prior to the use of bar codes on library books, each book would have three different card associated with it according to the Dewey Decimal system: one with the author's name on it, a second one with the title, and a third one with a subject name. With the elimination of the old card catalog system in libraries, the Code 39 bar code system allowed libraries to be more automated, granting patrons the convenience of being able to check out books on their own (library cards also have bar codes on the back), renew books through their local library's website online, and request a book to be put on hold.
Bar code labels used for library books should be safe to use to aid in the preservation and conservation of the books. Acid free bar codes labels such as those provided by Gaylord, Carr Mclean, or Highsmith are ideal to use for this purpose as they can be placed on either the front or back cover of a newer library book. Much older books, especially those that are cloth bound with no dust jacket, benefit from having the bar code label placed on the inside of the cover for better adhesion. Companies like Gaylord not only provide the actual labels and label printers but also laser, wireless scanners just for library use. Highsmith offers clear plastic bar code label protectors that are safe for use with library books and keep the printed bar code from wearing out over time.
Any type of bar code creating software that supports the Code 39 format can be used for making library book bar code labels. A few bar code software companies that will print Code 39 bar code labels for library books are PrimaSoft and Azalea. PrimaSoft Database Software for Windows offers bar code label printing solutions for a wide range of libraries, from small libraries to movie libraries. PrimaSoft library bar code software can also generate reports, catalog collections of books, movies, or music, and search for patrons in the database. Azalea Software provides C39Tools to libraries for printing Code 39 bar code labels in a number of fonts that will fit small, medium, or large bar code labels.
Code 39 bar code labels can also be used for the personal cataloging of books or DVD's in non-library usage or small museums that have a library for patron usage.
YouTube Video's that illustrate how to make labels and bar codes: