RFID in Libraries


California RFID bill hearing postponed

Filed under: — Mary @ 5:42 pm

Senator Simitian’s Identity Information Protection Act of 2005, SB 695, had its committee hearing postponed according to California’s leginfo.ca.gov.

You can subscribe to future action on the bill here.

American Libraries reports on RFID and Layoff concerns at BPL

Filed under: — Margaret @ 8:58 am

The April 2005 American Libraries (p. 13) reports on the stresses Jackie Griffin, director of Berkeley Public Library, is encountering over her staff and the public linking staff layoffs with the purchase of RFID tags. Also mentioned is the CA SB682 described by Laura a few weeks ago.


Welcome Margaret, Editorial Policy & little fixes

Filed under: — Laura Smart @ 3:53 pm

We’ve added another contributor to the blog. Welcome Margaret Hazel. Margaret has first hand experience implementing RFID at a public library and will be a valuable voice for RFID in Libraries.

I’ve made links to contributor bios under the “Authors” permalinks on the left-hand side.

Also please note there is a more detailed editorial policy available under the “About–This blog” section, also on the left-hand side.

I know changes have been slow in coming to this blog and I thank all the readers for their patience. I’m bootstrapping myself about Wordpress. I do not find it intuitive to administer. Add that to the amount of time I have to devote to the blog and, well, changes occur at glacial rate. I do think the additional contributors will help keep the blog entries more current and timely.

My next big administrative task is to get comment and track-backs in functioning order once more. Wordpress does have some comment-spam controls but I’ve got a backlog of spam to clear out. If anybody knows how to do this quickly, give me a ring and hold my hand through the process. I want to see RFID in Libraries become a real community space. Discussion is crucial for that. After I do that, I’ll tackle doing an upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.

Thoughts on Warfield & Tien piece

Filed under: — Laura Smart @ 3:41 pm

I’ve got a bit of ranting to do about the most recent commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet from anti-RFID activists Peter Warfield and Lee Tien. Full disclosure: I’m neither pro or con on RFID. I think the privacy concerns are valid and return on investment is poorly documented. Yet, I also believe the technology holds promise for improving service to library users. My fence-sitting advice to librarians considering RFID is “tread carefully.” This shouldn’t be news to anybody that read my fall 2004 netConnect article.

Any decision a librarian makes on RFID should be supported by facts. A list of particulars without context doesn’t do anybody any good. I question the Daily Planet’s ability to be unbiased in their reporting of this ongoing story. Some of Warfield and Tien’s reasoning is specious and should not be left to stand without question.


Warfield and Tien at it again

Filed under: — Laura @ 2:57 pm

The Berkeley Daily Planet has published another commentary by anti-RFID activists Peter Warfield and Lee Tien. I’ve got quite a bit to say about it, but I’ll refrain until I can do a bit of fact-checking. I think there are problems with some of their points and good rebuttals to others. Stay tuned.

More contributors

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:31 pm

Please welcome Lori Bowen Ayre and Mary Minow to libraryrfid.net. Lori and Mary have graciously accepted my invitation to make contributions to the blog. Many thanks to the both of you for widening the perspective of this space and for helping to keep its content current and timely.


TLC buys Tech Logic

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:21 am

More from Library Journal. The Library Corporation bought Tech Logic Corp., the RFID vendor.

ALA/BISG continues to meet

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:19 am

Library Journal is reporting on a February 25 meeting held by the RFID Working Group, which is jointly sponsored by the American Library Association and the Book Industry Study Group.

As always, privacy was a major part of the conversation. It was noted that there is a continuing need for education about the issues in the library community. Our old friend David Molnar discussed the risks and noted that increased standardization, while very necessary, also increases the vulnerability of the tags.

This is going to be a big concern as libraries and book publishers and sellers continue to work together on RFID. Each constituency is concerned with moving books around. As books move through the information chain, how will we deal with the chips? From an economic perspective it makes sense to use the same chips for every industry. Why add labor and additional chips at each point? Libraries could just use the chips already inserted into the book during publication.

Yet, the need for protecting individuals engenders the need for “kill” functions to stop tags once they leave the warehouse or bookstore.

It’s a tricky balance and one where I think we should err on the side of caution. I seem to recall that there is a type of tag which can be put to sleep rather than being killed outright and this may provide the neccessary middle ground.


New Berkeley Library trustee

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:01 pm

The top story in today’s Berkeley Daily planet reports on the appointment of a new trustee to the library board. Ying Lee, who opposes the decision to use RFID, said she didn’t know enough about Jackie Griffin’s plans to comment on the budget.

The article does say that the board will be having a community meeting on April 12 to discuss RFID and proposed staff layoffs.

I’ve been predicting that such a meeting would happen and I’m glad to see that it is. The library needs some good PR. Yes there are privacy issues with RFID. No doubt about it. I think, however, that the media coverage is conflating the issues with the staff layoff situation. If the board is able to get the budget numbers out to the people along with how those numbers were generated/obtained then folks will see that Jackie and the board have made decisions based upon their needs. They are not installing RFID due to technolust or a grand desire to eliminate staff.

Evaulation is going to be the key to long term public acceptance of those decisions. Hard numbers to illustrate the decrease in workers comp costs and qualitative studies about patron satisfaction with customer service will demonstrate that RFID was (or wasn’t?) worth it.



Filed under: — Laura @ 11:33 am

Color me skeptical. RFIDwasher is a soon to be released tool which claims to locate RFID tags and “destroy them forever.” No word on when this little baby will be released. I’m too afraid of spam to register to be notified of its availability.

Tags can be write-protected and locked against tampering so this thing would have to circumvent that.


IT decision makers give thumbs up to eliminating staffed check out

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:01 am

Primary Research Group released a report based on exhaustive interviews with library IT directors from nine major public libraries. Regarding RFID they say,

“Libraries that are using RFID automated book check out technology appear to be divided into two camps: those which hesitate in implementing the technology, and those which essentially limit or eliminate non-automated check out, literally compelling patrons to adjust to the new technology. All of those that had taken the latter approach were glad that they had.”

This is consistent with the experiences of the library IT folk in California that I interviewed when I was investigating RFID for my place of work. Without the option of a staffed circulation desk patrons quickly became accustomed to the RFID self-check. The key for the people I spoke with, however, was placing a dedicated staffer near the machines for the first few weeks to assist patrons during the transition.


More on Mea Culpa

Filed under: — Laura @ 2:34 pm

Karen Schneider gave me the proverbial (and deserved) lashing with a wet noodle over my poor choice of words regarding the Warfield/Tien vs. Berkeley Public Library tit for tat in the Berkeley Daily Planet. If you’d like more background on just how my original post came to be, you can read my response to it by following the above link.

I encourage anybody who thinks my original post compounded any problems to re-read it substituting “dispute” for “debunk” and they will get my original intent.

I’m off to re-read the dictionary. Thanks to all the etymologists who corrected my usage.

Feds not going to regulate RFID anytime soon

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:48 am

A Senate high-tech task force has reccomended protecting (and I quote):

“exciting new technologies from premature regulation or legislation in search of a problem. RFID holds tremendous promise for our economy, including military logistics and commercial inventory efficiencies, and should not be saddled prematurely with regulation.”


FTC releases workshop report

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:56 am

The transcript and report on the workshop the Federal Trade Commission held on RFID in June 2004 has (finally) been released. Enjoy. There is much discussion regarding the privacy issues.

Mea Culpa: A clarification

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:13 am

In my last post regarding the dust-up experienced by the folks at Berkeley Public Library I misused the term “debunk.” I would like to ensure that the readers of this blog understand that BPL has not been debunked, only that Lee Tien and Peter Warfield appear intent on debunking the BPL with their commentary. Jackie Griffith sent me a detailed explanation of the issues mentioned in the Warfield and Tien piece, which I have posted with her permission below. As I intimated in my original post, the commentary used a unique interpretation of the facts. My apologies to Jackie and the BPL for any misunderstandings.

I was disappointed to see your blog entry on RFID at
Berkeley. I was disappointed because certainly you
knew that you could call or write me and I would at
least give you another perspective before you
published something unsubstantiated, written, at least
in part, by Peter Warfield.
I find this definition for “debunking"…repudiation:
the exposure of falseness or pretensions; “the
debunking of religion has been too successful” I found
that on WordNet2.
That suggests that you are stating that we were doing
something false or with pretensions.
In fact, as Mr. Warfield was told, what he had in
front of him about Berkeley Public Library’s injuries
was the list of injuries at the library as they are
reported by the worker. Do you know many people who
report their injury as an RSI? Mostly, in my
experience, they first report that they “pulled a
muscle” or they “strained” something. It is usually a
doctor who suggests that they have a RSI. The numbers
that Mr. Warfield has for direct RSI injuries come
from people who know that they have reinjured a
previous injury and thus, they report RSI. Mr.
Warfield was given the information on WC in this
format because the city will not release any
information in a way that would violate employee
What I have been saying and continue to say is that we
have $1 million in direct Workers Comp claims every 5
years. And, we have an additional $1 million in
indirect costs around WC. A significant proportion of
them are RSI. Last year, 14 out of 17 injuries were
RSI. Not by my count. By the city’s HR department.
And, the costs were not created by us or the HR
department but rather, by the consultant who was hired
to help the city reduce WC claims. Much of this was
published in the consultant’s study results in 2002.
Finally, I would point out that because RSI tend to be
ongoing, in at least one case in the last 5 years
the employee had to quit, they are also the most
expensive claims. In the case of workers who can no
longer work because of RSI, we will continue to pay
for years. Some city workers have been on disability
paid out by the city for years. Even if those costs
are incurred this year, we will continue to have to
pay them.
Beyond that, I am wondering if anyone can put a price
tag on a worker injury. If it only saved $100,000/year
but that meant that no worker had their career ended
or had to undergo surgery or had their range of motion
lessened, would that make the system any less
Anyway, the information is out there and available if
you want to check any of Mr. Warfield or Mr. Tien’s
Jackie Griffin

See apps at UCLA

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:02 am

Heads up to SoCal librarians in the vincinity: University of California, Los Angeles is holding a demonstration today of technologies built upon Win RFID 1.0 middleware, including library check-in/out.


Warfield and Tien dispute BPL claims

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:24 pm

Peter Warfield, director of the Library Users Association and main protester of San Francisco Public Library RFID plan, along with Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have an article in the Berkeley Daily Planet which debunks the Berkeley Public Library’s claim that their RFID project will reduce worker’s compensation costs.

Warfied and Tien say that repetitive stress injuries only accounted for 26% of BPL’s $167,871 in workman compensation costs from 1999-2003. BPL director Jackie Griffith has said that BPLs costs for RSI were closer to $1 million.

I suspect there are different interpretations of the numbers here and await a rebuttal from Griffith or a BPL representative. It should be interesting to see if Warfield and Tien are as successful in Berkeley as they were in San Francisco.


Dynix/Bibliotheca partner in Poland

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:26 am

Read the details at Library Technology Guides.

More CA legislation

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:18 am

The California Senate has had the first reading of bill SB 682, the Identity Information Protection Act of 2005.

The legislation (read full text), would make it a misdemeanor to include a “contactless integrated circuit or other device that can broadcast personal information” on any government issued ID card – including public library cards.

Its definition of what consititutes a broadcast device is fairly broad. I believe there are already libraries in California which use RFID in their patron ID cards, or at the very least are considering it.

I suspect this will get thrown to committee before 2nd and 3rd readings. I also suspect pro-RFID lobbyists will be certain to testify before committee. Stay tuned.


BPL Trustee Responds to Fears

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:15 am

Laura Anderson, president of the Berkeley Public Library Board of Trustees, wrote a commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet defending the choice of RFID .

Also, some letters to the editor from members of the public expressing their concerns. One woman cites a paper from the IEEE Sprectrum linking wireless radiation to cancer.

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