RFID: Radio Frequency Identification

This is a blog about RFID in library

Sunday, May 14, 2006

RFID, Coming to a library near you

RFID systems have already been placed in about 300 libraries in the United States and millions of books are tagged. However, cost and privacy are still 2 main problems facing this technology. According to Gilbert, cost is no longer a problem because the price of RFID tags is falling and the tags can be used for 15 years. The advantages of RFID systems are more than cost. It supports self check-ins and checkouts, the inventory, and the handling of materials. The ability to pinpoint the misplaced items saves a lot of money spent for replacing items. An RFID system can save labour cost. Furthermore, librarians can reduce time for repetitive work and increase time for helping students. Instead of worrying about losing jobs, they can feel more comfortable because RFID helps to reduce workplace injuries.

RFID, Coming to a library near you does not focus on the technical features of RFID. It examples cost and privacy aspects when this technology is implemented in libraries. It provides many valuable evidences against the high cost. This article seems not to be a particular relevant resource for a report against the implementation of RFID technology in a small university library for its high cost. However, it has value because it helps to have a look over the opposite side of the problem.

RFID technology for libraries

In his paper, Boss defines RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) as “the combination of radio-frequency based technology and microchip technology”. According to him, RFID systems have many advantages over the traditional barcodes. As Boss described, an RFID system has three key components: RFID tags, readers, and a server. About tagging the materials, according to him, most libraries cannot tag their whole collections at one time. Therefore, he suggests converting materials when they are being discharged. But this way is costly with a rental of approximately $250 a week. So, most libraries tag new acquisitions as part of the cataloguing process. In the author’s view, the advantages of the RFID system are rapid charge or discharge, simplified patron self-charge or discharge, high reliability, high-speed inventorying, automated material handling and long life tags. High cost is a potential disadvantage of the RFID system. Besides, a RFID system is vulnerable to compromise. Other disadvantages are that the tags are exposed and can easily to be removed, and the exit sensors can engage problems. In addition, the threat to patron privacy of an RFID system is being considered a matter by many States.

This is one of the papers from Public Library Association which introduces some specific technologies for librarians. Updated in 2004, this paper is not a so current resource. But it is still valuable because it provides basic information about the RFID systems and it is cited by many other authors. The calculations on budgeting for applying RFID are good examples for the institutions which are going to apply this technology.


TAGSYS is one of the North American RFID vendors. It is “the global leader in item-level RFID systems and tags”. Its website contains lots of information about RFID such as definitions, main technical features, benefits of RFID technology, and key components of an RFID system. RFID Markets provide information about potential markets of this technology. RFID Products provides information about technical specifications and markets in which this product is used. TAGSYS News & Events updates information about RFID technology frequently. RFID in library is a reasonable source for a report on the application of RFID technology on libraries. As one of the main parts of the website, FRID in library provides brief information about RFID library applications and products. RFID Library Whitepage provides more detailed information about the application of RFID in libraries, which can be used in the reports mentioned above.

Although only a part of the website is about RFID in library, this website is quite a good resource for any report writing about the relevant topic. Animated pictures and video clips about how RFID works are particularly useful for the beginners of this technology. This is a website of a vendor, so it includes some advertised information. However, to be a good competitor to other vendors, TAGSYS has to develop and expand their products. Hence, the latest information about the RFID technology and its applications can be found in this website. In addition, this website has value because it provides information about many RFID applications in many other fields besides library. Not only the unique technical features but also the applicability of a technology brings its success. Therefore, the evaluation of a technology should be based on not only technical specifications but also its applications in life.