Library Barcode Basics

This guide will help you understand your library's barcode labels, how to read them, and how to order new labels that will work with your system.

What is a Barcode?

A barcode is a specific language made up of bars and spaces that is read by a scanner, then entered into your software. When this pattern is scanned, a beam of light from the scanner passes over the bars and converts them into a readable character message. This message provides all neccesary information on your patrons or media.

What Purpose do they Serve and Why are they Important?

To successfully operate a library organization and its inventory it is necessary to have a tool that can provide quick and easy access to its information. The best way to unlock information is a quality barcode label. It offers the fastest and most accurate system of capturing and accessing information in a cost-effective way.

Barcode labels are the least expensive factor in Library Automation and the most significant factor to ensure efficient operation in your library. It is important that your barcodes read correctly the first time. Barcode Label Protectors keep your barcode labels clean and scannable for years to come.


Symbology is equal to a style of language. There are various types of barcode symbologies. The 3 most common are: Code 39, Codabar, and Follett Interleaved 2 of 5. If you are unsure of your symbology, call your software company to get symbology type before placing your order.

Understanding Barcodes

Patron or Title - Patron labels typically start with a "2" and item labels typically start with a "3"

4-Digit Library Number - a number that your library or school district has assigned for your specific location. It only applies to a 14 digit bar code.

Sequential Start and Stop Numbers - These are specific numbers assigned to either your patrons or titles.

Check Digit - A result of a mathematical calculation that is applied to the end of each barcode. It is established by the automation software and ensures that the data is being scanned and virtually eliminates input errors.

Parts of a Barcode

What Information is Important in guaranteeing that your Library Software Interprets the barcode properly?

Most library automation software programs are compatible with various standard library symbologies. Libraries and schools may be required to use specific information that needs to be encoded within the barcode. Often special letters or numbers are necessary to designate barcode use, such as patron or title barcodes.

Ready to Order?

Shop our wide selection of Barcode Labels. Then download this Custom Barcode Form and fill it in completely.

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Need Help?

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