Following a multi-year upgrade, the world-famous Vatican Apostolic Library is once again open to scholars and visitors. And the precious books and manuscripts onsite are safer than ever thanks to a new security system.
The Vatican Apostolic Library ranks among the most renowned research libraries in the world. Its modern history began in the mid-15th century. Pope Nicholas V resolved to release the Latin, Greek and Hebrew works – which had grown to 1200 texts during his time as pope – to scholars for consultation and inspection.
Since then the library has continued to expand. It now contains 150,000 handwritten texts, 1.5 million printed books, 300,000 coins and medals and 100,000 cards and engravings.
The library grants free access to lecturers and researchers from universities and technical colleges, academics preparing their doctoral papers and authorised students, as well as researchers who can produce their qualifications in the form of scientific publications.
In July 2007, certain parts of the building were closed to the public for renovation and modernisation works, and in September last year the library reopened its doors. As part of the renovation work, the library was equipped with a modern video surveillance system to prevent any unauthorised removal of the collection. The library’s management wanted to heighten security in the reference rooms and archives using the best available video technology. In the words of Luciano Ammenti, the library’s IT services coordinator, “It was an incoming bid comparison and the recommendation of Rome-based system integrator Seret Spa that led us to MOBOTIX. Our goal was to gain general and systematic control over any item being used in the reference rooms and over the movement of the people inside the library. Essentially, we wanted to have a perfect control system in all rooms, so that we could record all events in the building.
The library’s management wanted to finish the installation of the video surveillance system long before the final reopening of the library. Many areas, such as the manuscript cellar, had been monitored for months in advance using video surveillance. A total of 78 cameras were installed at critical points in the library (reference rooms, exits and storage areas). These included eight D24 dome cameras and 70 M12D cameras. It was the innovation and originality of this project that set it apart from other security systems. Together with the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology used in the microchips integrated into the user’s library card and the books, the surveillance system can be used to monitor people according to the books they are using and track their movements inside the library. The 20 MOBOTIX cameras positioned at the library’s exits are activated by the motion detection system when people leave the building. This way, it is possible to identify these people and assign them to the correct library card and the books that they are using.
Thanks to artificial intelligence software specifically developed for this project, it is possible to assign the microchip to the corresponding video clip from the camera, allowing the operator to evaluate the recordings quickly and easily using a single search criterion like a book title, a visitor’s name or the time at which a person left the building.
All images from the video cameras are saved for one year at a computing centre for data analysis. This cutting edge system ensures the security of all volumes in the library, identifying any anomalies immediately. If a person removes a volume without authorisation, an alarm will be activated the instant the person leaves the building through one of the library’s exits. The responsible person at the circulation desk can then evaluate the recording from the camera and inform the security staff as needed.
Luciano Ammenti is enthusiastic about the ongoing operations of the system.
“We are incredibly satisfied with this project, because we now have a video surveillance system that really stands out from any of the other systems in use today. The IP megapixel technology from MOBOTIX delivers excellent quality recordings.
“For us, it was important to have clear and distortion-free images so that we could recognise individual faces and easily identify the people in the library. With the D24 camera mounted on a pan/tilt head allowing 360-degree tilting, this video surveillance system offers us flexible live video control options in all areas of the library.
“The cameras are easy to install, so we didn’t have to make any structural changes to our 16th century building. With the support of MOBOTIX and system integrator Seret Spa, we were able to develop specific software to monitor the entire system and help us to make use of its full range of features.
“The close cooperation that was built up over the course of the project – and which will certainly be maintained in to the future – forms the basis of another successful project to increase the efficiency of the system and to reduce the strain on security staff.”