Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 3: RFID Standards

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 3: RFID Standards

Article excerpt


Chapter 3 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 48, no. 5) "RFID in Libraries: A Step toward Interoperability" discusses RFID standards. RFID has not been widely adopted in libraries partly because of the lack of standards. However, as of 2012, several key standards are in place, which provides an opportunity for moving toward interoperable RFID systems where libraries should be able to read each other's RFID tags, and togs and equipment should all work together regardless of the vendor or the library system being used This chapter provides a brief history of the standards development process and articulates what needs to be done to take advantage of the standards now in place.


One of the reasons RFID has not been more widely adopted in libraries is the lack of standards. Without standards, libraries couldn't be assured that their significant investment would be worthwhile. Those libraries that did go ahead and take the plunge early on have had to deal with the fallout of being early adopters: the need to replace tags, replace hardware, and find new vendors to support their proprietary systems. Libraries that had to replace their tags were in the toughest position because RFID tags cannot be simply pulled off a book or DVD. In fact, they cannot be removed from a CD or DVD, in most cases, without destroying the media. At least with books, it may be possible to disable the tag (sometimes by cutting the antenna) and then put another RFID tag inside the book (being careful to place it where it won't interfere with the old tag). Replacing RFID tags is not something you want to do if you can somehow avoid it. See table 3.1 for a summary of these issues.

Standards provide insurance that a library's investment in technology will benefit it in both the short term and long term. Standards also help ensure that old practices don't restrict the ways that new technology is employed. While it is easy for libraries to use RFID tags as glorified barcodes (writing only the barcode number on the tag), it is an unnecessarily limited way to use the technology. Standards provide guidelines for extending the use of RFID tags for libraries as well as the other stakeholders who could also benefit from reading or writing data to the tags.

Standards that take the entire life cycle of a library item into account can help ensure that the RFID tags are usable at each stage (e.g., supplier, jobber, retail, library, used bookstore). Suppliers, distributors, and retailers of books can benefit from RFID tags in books as much as libraries can. However, how the supplier or retailer uses the tags will be very different from how a library uses the tags. For example, there may be fields that the retailers find very useful (e.g., Title) that a library would choose to leave blank to ensure patron privacy is protected.

Data model standards specify fields that should be left "unlocked" to give maximum flexibility to everyone in the supply chain. Once an item moves from manufacturer to jobber to library, the library should have the option to limit the data written to the tag as it sees fit, keeping in mind its commitment to protecting patron privacy. Similarly, the way a library uses the tag should not impede how others in the book industry choose to use the tag.

Libraries also benefit from having tags placed in books well in advance of arriving in the library. While moving through the supply chain, these tagged books can be more efficiently managed, thereby reducing everyone's costs. Also, upstream suppliers could provide information on the tag that supports the library's receiving workflows (e.g., Supplier ID and Order Number).

The History of RFID Standards and Policies in the United States

It has been a long road to a comprehensive US Data Profile that specifies the tag that should be used in library implementations (ISO 18000-3, Mode 1) and what elements should be used and how they should be encoded (ISO 28560-2). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.