Fifty-one volunteers are helping tackle a daunting task at the Morton Public Library.

The library’s approximately 120,000 items need to be tagged with bar codes for a new checkout system.

As of Dec. 17, less than three months after the project began, 62,192 items had been tagged by volunteers and 25 staff members.

“I’m amazed,” said library director Janice Sherman.

“Several volunteers are going to Florida for the winter, so we hope to be done tagging by April and have the checkout system in place for the start of our summer reading program in late May/early June,” she said.

The RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) system purchased from worldwide distributor Bibliotheca, the low bidder, cost $25,000, with funding coming from library reserves.

After the system is in place, Sherman said, security gates and self checkout stations will be added in future years.

“Our library is very busy for a community our size,” she said. “Because we’re in a tax-capped county, our funding is limited, but we still want to maintain a high standard of customer service.

“This new checkout system will be much faster than what we have now. People won’t have to wait in line as long.”

Patrons will place their items on a sensor pad that will read bar codes. A receipt will be printed in a few seconds.

Sherman said volunteers were rounded up for the tagging project through phone calls, word of mouth and simply asking when they stopped into the library.

They were trained, then asked to work one two-hour shift per week. Some are coming in at additional times.

“Our volunteer hours are equivalent to one full-time person working for 20 weeks,” Sherman said. “Most volunteers use the library regularly. We’re a community of library users.”

Library staff thanked the volunteers last week at an open house with refreshments.

Volunteer Julie Blair, a Morton resident who has four children ages 11 to 16, is working two hours a week on the project.

“It’s not difficult work,” she said. “In fact, it’s simple, almost relaxing. And I enjoy being at the library because I always see people I know.”

Blair said she’s an active school and church volunteer, and she was searching for a way to do volunteer work for the community. She found what she was looking for at the library.

“I use the library a lot,” she said. “This is a great way to give back.”

Retired teacher Henrietta Davis of Morton is a regular library user and volunteer. She said she volunteered for the tagging project and is devoting as much as four hours a week because, “the library is a friendly place to work.”