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The advantage of radio frequency identification (RFID) over other self service 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. Indeed the term ‘RFID’ has become a shorthand for self-service.

The contrasts between RFID as used in retail and RFID in the library

RFID and some suppliers came from the retail supply chain – a very different market to libraries . 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. In the library world RFID tag remain in item for years and may outlast the equipment originally purchased to read them.

Introductions to RFID in libraries and requirements/specification

Guide to procurement including a specification

A Librarian’s Guide to RFID Procurement. by Mick Fortune BIC & NAG (rev) 2016

“The document is in four parts.

Part One offers a sample template for the buyer to set out the scope of the project, explain how it fits within the existing ICT infrastructure, detail any future requirements that may need to be considered, give a detailed description of the existing library service and provide any additional information that will assist the supplier in making their best offer. Specific details relating to aspects of the procurement may either be included in this section or at the head of the relevant section in the main text of the specification.

Part Two sets out the key areas of concern that should be addressed by a potential supplier. It covers both the broader aspects of credibility, experience and durability one should expect from any supplier as well as specific points relating to RFID deliverables. Each section is introduced bya brief explanation of its importance and relevance followed by guidance for the librarian in providing relevant information to the supplier that should ensure mutual understanding. Finally a list of sample questions –that may need to be amended to reflect your particular circumstances –is offered for you to begin drafting your requirement.

Part Three offers an sample template for suppliers to submit costs.

Part Four offers a simple model for evaluating supplier responses.”

Background information about RFID in libraries

RFID Primer -An introduction to RFID in libraries including explaining and why the standards are so important. .A US focus.By Lori Bowen Ayre. Library Technology Consultant / The Galecia Group +1 (707) 763-6869

RFID page on Galecia Consulting website. Showing RFID products are available with links to resources. Also links to Lori Bowen Ayre's pinterest pages. A US focus. By Lori Bowen Ayre. Library Technology Consultant / The Galecia Group. +1 (707) 763-6869.

RFID Vendors


This LCF standard is recommended by BIC as the best way to implement communications between systems within a library, for example between a Library Management System (LMS/ILS) and an RFID Self-Service Solution. Published 10th January 2014

Usage rates

RFID self service usage rates

Feedback on the RFID discussion list (LIB-RFID-UK@JISCMAIL.AC.UK) to Ken Chad from libraries (January/February 2018) on achievable self-service usage rates and nature of ‘exceptions’

Library 1 (Academic) “We average – fairly consistently over time – about 80% self-service. This is fine by us as we still offer staffed desks and a proportion of customers will always:

  • · Prefer to transact with a human being
  • · Have a problem with their account
  • · Are struggling with the technology (although in that case we’d usually walk them through it
  • · they are picking up some sort of enclosure item where usage is supervised or an inter-library loan on occasion

I don’t feel that people should HAVE to use it if they prefer not to. Obviously at times (for example overnight opening when there are only security-type staff available) they have to if they want to borrow/return. I’d rather offer them a choice.”

Library 2 (Academic) “We average about 84% of issues and about 70% of returns via self-service.”

Library 3 (Academic) “Looking at loans and discharges since April 2017, when we went live with our new system.

75.6% of our total loans, which include the exceptions below.

  • Item-based exceptions because of items that cannot be processed through the self-issue terminals:
  • Items belonging to other branches that do not have RFID capability (they are often borrowed and returned at our branch as we are open 24/7)
  • Interlibrary loans from other libraries – even if the item has an RFID tag, we always need to do a manual checkout on these as the due date is set by the lending library not by our system circ rules
  • CD ROMs – kept at the staff desk and not RFID tagged
  • Video and DVD – not RFID tagged – we only have a handful of these so it was not worth investing in the special RFID hardware.
  • Laptops – laptop loans are in the library system but are administered by our IT department who do not have RFID capability
  • Lift keys – physical keys issued to customers with mobility issues
  • Journals – not RFID tagged

User-based exceptions that tend not to be done through the self-issue terminals:

  • Internal housekeeping e.g. on-order, cataloguing, missing, as these don’t necessarily have a physical library card or item present perform an RFID loan
  • Loans to other libraries as these are done at an interlibrary loans desk at a different floor from the RFID terminals and we typically set a special due date
  • Postal loans to part time students, where the borrower (and more importantly their ID card for the kiosk) are not present”

Library 4 (Academic) “We had figures of 92% for 16/17, and 95% thus far for 17/18”.

Library 5 (Public Library) “We have a target of 90% of all issues for our self service kiosks, and over the last 10 months of the financial year, we have been achieving just under 87%. We do have some types of transactions that are excluded from the stats for operational reasons but they are generally low volume, so I would say the 87% is representative.

ILLs, orchestral and playset loans would all be examples of types of transactions that would be excluded – it is usually because of the degree of staff intervention that is required to complete the loan anyway.”

Library 6 (Academic) “The library is 24/7/365 access …and we are what amounts to being a single faculty, independent university. Apart from the occasional item that needs to be issued manually in order to override the prescribed loan periods, I would guess that we have a little less than 100% RFID issues and returns as RFID self-service is the only method on offer as we have no staffed desk, one librarian and one part time assistant for a collection of 50,000 volumes..and around 250 students.”

RFID Privacy in Libraries

What Librarians (Public & Academic), Library Suppliers and Library Systems Vendors Need to Know BIC (Date?)

“Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) in libraries involves the tagging of library books with RFID tags and the use of self-services kiosks and other technologies to enable library customers to self-issue and self-return library books. The EU has issued two mandates for member states to encourage them to adopt measures to limit the risk to privacy from the use of RFID-tagged items. The risk has been identified as:

  • identification of the citizen's identity, lifestyle or affiliations, e.g. their sexual orientation or membership of a trades union
  • the ability to track the citizen's movements e.g. across a city

Libraries are identified as high risk within this analysis because unlike retail RFID tags which are switched off during purchase, RFID tags on library books are always available to be read so that, on their return to the library, the tags can be read as part of a self-return process”

rfid.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/29 05:59 by paul