News & Opinion

Does RFID Make Sense for Your Library?

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on September 19, 2013

With the adoption of the new RFID ISO standard, http://www.niso.org/apps/group_public/project/details.php?project_id=102  it seems like everyone is talking about and looking at RFID right now. There were several vendors at the 2013 ALA conference in Chicago exhibiting their equipment and explaining why this was the perfect time to convert your library to RFID. But the real question is does RFID make sense for your library?

Anti-Theft: Would using RFID be a successful theft deterrent for your library? Do you have a current anti-theft system? With radio tags on every piece of material, RFID is an effective way to catch items that innocently or not so innocently try to leave your building.

Inventory Abilities: The radio tags make it easy to know where an item is whether or not it’s in the correct place in the library. It will take a whole lot less time to find things that have been creatively shelved by helpful patrons. Or it’s easier to find what you want on the shelves, whether it’s to send out to other libraries or for your own purposes.

Labor Intensive: The initial outlay of staff costs in having to affix an RFID tag to every item in the library is a bit daunting. Do you want to touch every item? Can you use your library’s core of volunteers to do some or all of the work? Do you know of any MLIS students needing some hands-on experience?

Materials and Equipment Costs: It’s not cheap to convert your library to RFID. You need to decide what elements are most important to you and find a vendor that presents the most reasonable costs. There are several big vendors to look at: D-Tech, 3M, and TechLogic just to name a few. Each vendor has strengths and each has its weaknesses.

Staff Buy-In: Do you have key staff that will support a project of this magnitude in your library? Will their jobs be materially improved by RFID? If you can convince some staff that an investment in time and labor now will have big returns later, then you’re all set.

Tech Knowledge: Will you have someone in your building that is tech savvy and can manage the RFID installation? Will that person be the point person either with your vendor or whoever will maintain the system? What vendor you choose may be determined by what kind of tech support you are provided with.

When you’ve weighed these different factors, you can decide if RFID is right for you.


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