The advantage of radio frequency identification (RFID) over other technologies used in libraries is usually seen to be its ability to combine the functions of the barcode (as a unique item identifier) and the security tag (able to indicate that an item is being removed from the library without permission), but with the added advantage of not

needing line of sight. The customer-friendly self service that this combination of features makes possible is at the heart of the attraction of RFID for most libraries.
There are many layers of misunderstanding between libraries and their suppliers over what RFID is meant to be/do. The first is the widely accepted use of the term ‘RFID’ as shorthand for self-service:

The contrasts between RFID as used in retail and RFID in the library
Some RFID suppliers have a track record in library self-service, a handful understand that library operations go beyond loans, but many came from the retail supply chain – a very different market altogether. In the fast moving world of RFID solutions appear and disappear rapidly. New tag technologies appear all the time making old ones obsolete.In retail such rapid change is welcomed. In a market where the priorities are speed of supply, greater accuracy and better margins data standards are practically non-existent and tags – and tag data – change almost as fast as the applications that use them. These solutions are not designed to be used by anyone else, Asda don’t share their RFID warehousing solutions with Tesco. So the solutions are “closed loop” – i.e. they are designed to work in a closed environment to perform a particular task

RFID Vendors

RFID companies and contact information

RFID specification

'Tendering for RFID Systems: a core specification for libraries.' By Mark Hughes & Mick Fortune. June 2011

Case studies

Harrogate College: RFID in the library. An Excellence Gateway case study. (No Date 2010?) This case study was produced by JISC RSC (Regional Support Centres) Yorkshire & Humber on behalf of the Excellence Gateway.

'A Successful Conversion' 2CQR Case study (Lincoln University April 2012
'As part of an update of facilities and services the library management team at the University of Lincoln had proposed an upgrade of the stock management system and improved student interface with the assets.The existing EM system was close to the end of its life and the management team had been evaluating the benefits other universities had received from enhanced stock control using RFID.

Discussion List

Mick Fortune runs the RFID listserve (LIB-RFID-UK)

IFLA special interest group

The IFLA IT Section has established an RFID working group. The role of this working group will be to review, discuss and publicise developments in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) for Libraries. This includes:
  • Standards
  • Technological developments
  • Issues of privacy and confidentiality
  • Conference sessions in the annual IFLA congress to promote RFID discussion.
  • Application of RFID in libraries.

SIG web site

Library RFID website

Mick Fortune, owner and sole proprietor of Library RFID Ltd. He offers advice and support to librarians and the library industry.
Include links to resources, standards etc


EDItEUR is active in the development of the ISO standard 28560 for RFID in Libraries, sponsoring one of the editors of the three-part standard and arguing for a flexible approach that mandates a minimum of data (e.g. unique accession number and library identifier) whilst at the same allowing for further optional elements to be coded if required by libraries.

Guides to RFID

'Guidelines for the use of RFID in libraries' By Mick Fortune. MLA. May 2010

'Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future RFID in UK Libraries'.' By Mick Fortune. Library RFID Limited. IFLA 2011
Good up to date summary covering important current issues about standards and interoperability. From the presentation:
The UK Market.
  • 97.8% of UK RFID installations buy their entire RFID solution from a single supplier*
  • There is (almost) no competition once an RFID supplier is chosen
  • New products are available –but being proprietary –cannot be used everywhere
  • Most RFID companies are committed to change this scenario –but most librarians aren’t.
Source: Annual RFID survey -run by Mick Fortune (the author)

'A Guide to RFID in Libraries'
By Simon Edwards and Mick Fortune Book Industry Communication November 2008
It covers the library aspects of RFID and the key issues

RFID: Frequency, standards, adoption and innovation. By Matt Ward, Rob van Kranenburg & Gaynor Backhouse
JISC Technology and Standards Watch. May 2006
'This report gives an overview to RFID technology, whilst outlining the current and future uses of the technology within further and higher education. RFID acts as a technology that enables open, mobile learning experiences. RFID technology has been at the centre on much technological hype. The fragmentation of the industry has seen the proliferation of many different technologies and standards. The collection, organisation and dissemination of this vast array of information was a key part of the report, however, the real value of the work lies in the insights and ideas it gives around new applications and uses of RFID'.

'Making the most of RFID' By Martin Palmer. Facet 2009
Price: £44.95 (£35.96 to CILIP members):
ISBN: 978-1-85604-634-3
'…it is THE book to read if you want to inform yourself about the technology…highly recommended for all levels of library and information personnel and for library students and faculty alike…this is a compulsory read and a book I would strongly recommend.' LIBRARY MANAGEMENT



A new RFID standard to enable interoperability has been established but is not yet fully implemented across the library and vendor community.Some of the mainstream vendors have adopted the ISO 28560-2 standard.In April 2011 an alliance of leading UK suppliers, including 3M, Intellident, 2CQR and Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems AG joined forces to carry out interoperability testing on tag formats. Importantly the Alliance vendors say: ‘This means that customers can now buy products from any of these suppliers with the confidence that the tagged items will be interoperable – ultimately paving the way for cross-loaning of items across authorities’. ‘Intellident and Alliance complete ISO-28560 testing.’ (Press release April 2011.).
EDItEUR is active in the development of the ISO standard 28560 for RFID in Libraries,

'New RFID Standard Raises Prospects for Interoperability.' An excerpt from Lori Bowen Ayre's Library
Technology Report RFID in Libraries: A Step Toward Interoperability (July, 2012). The entire manuscript is available at the ALA Book Store

Data protection

Concern about the impact on libraries of EU action on RFID (August 2010)
(from the EDItEUR website).....
'The European Commission is taking some formal action with respect to RFID applications, based on data protection and privacy concerns. There is a serious risk that this could result in legislation that could affect the use of RFID in libraries. An initial review of the consultation document indicates that there is a bias towards a level of security and privacy that is currently not possible to implement in RFID for libraries. Given the success of RFID in libraries and the acceptance by the general public and university students, we feel that a robust response needs to be made to this public consultation document'.