RFID Considerations for Libraries

Standard

As Technical Librarian I need to keep on top of what is happening in the world of library related RFID. I subscribe to a couple of RFID library discussion lists (UK focus; North American focus) to keep up with activities in other libraries, but we’re also very fortunate in UK libraries, as Mick Fortune has a very informative and supplier neutral site/blog focused on library RFID. On it he raises issues that I hadn’t always considered.

Recently Mick has highlighted a few RFID ideas/issues/points that will be useful to any library service using or thinking of using RFID, and I thought I’d summarise them here and encourage people to follow them up. 

Worldwide RFID in libraries survey

Key points include:

  • The survey covered libraries from all sectors (eg public; academic; school; health), but the highest response was from public libraries. About 200 public library services in the UK use RFID, but not necessarily for all of their stock or all of their libraries.
  • Self-service is still the dominant reason for using RFID, but theft prevention, collection management, access control and acquisition functions also figure highly.
  • Only a small number of respondents used NFC smart-phone or tablet enabled devices. This technology can allow users devices to be used as scanners/readers. Increasing numbers of NFC devices may lead to increased RFID related apps in future.
  • Most respondents use RFID for books, but also CDs/DVDs, Journals, Music scores, laptops (as well as other stock).
  • Most libraries still buy their tags from their RFID supplier, as they did before the agreement of RFID data standards, but buying direct from the manufacturer would give higher savings.
  • ISO 28560-2 is the most popular data standard ie what information is included on the tag.
  • The majority of libraries with RFID use HF (High Frequency) systems, as opposed to UHF (Ultra high frequency).
  • The majority of RFID systems are still relying on SIP to communicate with the LMS, but SIP wasn’t created to work with RFID and therefore has its limitations. SIP allows for the use of extensions to add further functionality. However since the extensions aren’t regulated/standardised they would not migrate well to another RFID system. The newer Library Communications Framework aims to overcome these problems.

The detailed survey responses are very useful (and frank) and identify how libraries use RFID, how they are getting on with it and issues they may be having. It is also a very useful pointer for anyone considering implementing RFID.

BIC guidance on NFC (Near Field Communication)

This document highlights potential issues with NFC – “smartphones equipped with NFC can now read and write data to and from almost all the RFID tags used in the world’s libraries.”. Issues of concern around this technology focus on digital vandalism (ie altering data on the tags), stock theft and data locking.

E.U. Directive on RFID privacy

This expects libraries using RFID to display signs indicating the fact, so that people are aware it is in use in the library. The library would also be expected to undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment to produce a Privacy Impact Statement that would be accessible by anyone who wanted to read it.

If you have any responsibility for RFID or data security I’d recommend you go and read the articles and survey results on Mick’s blog if you haven’t already done so.

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