Radio-frequency identification (RFID)

RFID graphic overlaying shelves of library books

This guide outlines what using radio-frequency identification (RFID) is, and what you’ll need to consider when preparing a business case to implement RFID in your school library.

What RFID is

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses a wireless radio system to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, such as a book, so you can identify it and track its use. The tag contains electronically stored information on a microchip which is read by a RFID reader or scanner.

Using RFID in school libraries

RFID tags replace library barcodes. So they're protected, they're usually placed on the inside of a library item. Multiple RFID tags can be read at a time, unlike barcodes which can only be read one at a time.

Storing your information

Information about library items that you use for circulation, stocktake, and collection management is encoded on the tag’s microchip so it can be read by the RFID scanner. The information may include:

  • the item's title
  • the format
  • the call number
  • the school’s name.

The information stored on the tag’s microchip links to your Integrated Library System (ILS). The RFID reader scans the tag and, using its unique ID number, connects the item’s details with the information stored in your ILS.

Security systems and RFID

RFID tags also include a built-in security feature, which can be used if a school library has security gates installed. The security feature is activated or deactivated when you issue or return items. You don't need to put magnetic strips in items to use the security features of RFID.

Benefits of RFID

If you implement RFID, library staff will be able to:

  • issue and return items more quickly than when you use barcodes — for large collections with high circulation this can make circulation tasks much more efficient
  • spend less time on routine circulation tasks and more time on customer support and other library services
  • improve how you manage your collection — barcode scanners make time-consuming tasks more efficient, including stocktakes, locating missing items, compiling weeding reports and checking that items are correctly shelved.

RFID tags in student ID cards can also be linked to the library’s ILS and the school’s Learning Management System (LMS).

Presenting a business case for RFID

Before you introduce RFID it is important to assess:

  • the costs and benefits
  • the main issues and options that will meet the needs of your school.

For example, for smaller libraries where the volume of borrowing is low, the cost of implementing RFID, including converting existing library collections, may outweigh the benefits.

This information could help you decide the best course of action.

Considering RFID? Consider this. — feature article by Stephanie Handy for Computers in libraries 34(9) offers a range of practical and technical things for you to consider when implementing RFID

A librarian’s guide to RFID procurement (pdf) — Mick Fortune has edited contributions from British Industry Communications (BIC) National Acquisitions Group that offer templates and models for helping you select an RFID supplier to meet your requirements

RFID suppliers

These suppliers offer RFID solutions in New Zealand.