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RFID – The Sometimes Silly Things No One Tells You

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on April 1, 2014

We’re not going to tell you that choosing RFID for your library is a bad idea because it’s definitely not! But we are going to say, go into this experience with a good sense of humor because you may need it! In fact, it’s how your staff work through these quirks that crop up during the conversion process that will tell you volumes about the staff you have in your library.

Shiny Books – Who would have thought that the eye-catching covers that glisten in the light would be a problem? The metallic bits of color interfere with the radio signals. However, with some experimentation, there are ways to position the tags on the books or even on the tag pads themselves to still be able to use the RFID tags. However, toddler and children’s books where there can be quite a bit of “shine” still cause us to question whether we want the books in the collection at all. There have been many good-natured arguments on staff about whose fault it is that there are shiny books in our current collection. We’ve even “threatened”to tell the collection development folks, “Please see if you can figure out if the books you’re ordering will have shiny bits. If they do, are you really sure you want to buy it?”

Oversized Books – When we had our staff trying to tag as many books as quickly as we could, we had them put anything that didn’t tag properly the first time in a pile of items to be dealt with later. We started to notice that a large number of oversized items were ending up in the pile. The reason? Staff were putting the books on the RFID tag pads. This meant the tag in the book was not on the pad itself, but hanging off the side somewhere. Now we are much more careful when tagging larger items. We sure had a good laugh when we finally figured out what the problem was!

Toddler Books – We assume we’re not the first library to debate the merits of putting RFID tags on toddler books…as it is these books that get munched on by our youngest patrons. Nothing like having a conversation with your vendor about whether the tags are slobber-proof! Apparently they are fairly saliva-resistant, but we have tried to put the tags on those books close to the center of the book so small mouths can’t reach them as easily!

Helpful Patrons – Would you believe that within a week of starting to affix RFID labels to materials, patrons were returning the materials with the tags peeled off, and they put a lot of effort into doing so! For discs, they claimed the sticker kept things from working properly, which is not true of course. For books, the stickers just got in the way of the back page of the book…even when it was just blank! Now we have a fine for items returned with their tags removed. Good grief! There was quite a bit of eye rolling on the part of the staff as we realized we were going to have to make a formal statement about not removing the tags.

We’ll finish this story by saying that we’re almost a year into our conversion process, and we couldn’t be prouder of our staff at Madison Public Library in Madison, OH. There’s something amazing about watching your colleagues working together to solve challenges.

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