doi: 10.6017/ital.v25i1.3326

The State of RFID Applications in Libraries

Jay Sing, Navjit Brar, Carmen Fong


The adoption of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology by libraries promises a solution that could make it possible to inventory hundreds of thousands of items in their collections in days instead of months. In addition, it would allow patrons to check out and return library property automatically at any time of the day. Besides speeding up checkouts, keeping collections in better order, and alleviating repetitive strain injuries among librarians, RFID promises to provide a better control on theft, nonreturns, and misfiling of a library’s assets. With an estimated 35 million library items tagged worldwide in more than three hundred libraries, this technology is generating ever-increasing interest. In October and November 2004, the industrial technology department and the Robert E. Kennedy Library at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, surveyed participating libraries, RFID electronic discussion groups, and Library and Information Technology Association (LITA-L) electronic discussion group subscribers to collect information with regards to the implementation of RFID systems in libraries. Opinions were gathered regarding such topics, actual or estimated, as RFID implementation costs and time; the impact of the technology on operations such as handling of volumes and security; and RFID system features adopted such as conversion stations, self-checkout units, and security systems. Information on the various RFID library components and the results from the survey are presented in this paper.

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