RFID in Libraries


CLA Report

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:08 pm

Just in case you were wondering why I didn’t report on the vendor panel at the California Library Association conference – I was waiting for Lori Bowen Ayre to do it. She has. And she’s done it well.

Her summary pretty much says what I would have.


Bibliotheca releases better CD/DVD tags

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:45 am

RFID Journal reports that Bibliotheca has released a CD/DVD booster tag which they claim increases reads on this type of media from 70% to 100%. The usual problem with CD/DVDs is one of simple physics. Due to the magnetic layer on the disc there is interference with the electromagnetic radio signal waves.

The booster is pricey. It’s $1.49 for the booster and .99 for the donut. At that rate, I’m not sure which library could actually afford it. The breakthrough would be a definite boon to public libraries, since they tend to have high media circulation. Interestingly enough, the library cited in the article is Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library on Long Island, in New York. This is the same library that Bibliotheca touted as achieving an 85% labor savings by implementing self-check.

There is no mention of how many simultaneous reads of CD/DVDs can be done successfully. There is also no mention of how well the booster actually works in practice. Based on my conversations with electrical engineers, it is nigh well impossible to break the laws of physics and increase the read ranges of the CD/DVD tags very much. Bibliotheca may have increased the read range a little bit, and they say that it doesn’t effect the running speed/playback of the discs, nor does it damage the equipment. I reserve judgment until some library puts the tags though heavy use.


Chronicle gets wind of library RFID debate

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:54 am

I’m a bit sad that I was away and missed Scott Carlson’s call while he was writing this article for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He did leave a nice voice mail, however. Thanks Scott for thinking of this blog.

The best feature of this piece is the hard figures attached to ROI. Carlson writes:

The University of Nevada libraries found more than 500 lost items after officials tagged 600,000 items in its collection – which saved the library $40,000 in replacement costs. The library does inventories more frequently now. At the University of Connecticut, RFID tags have allowed the library to set up self-checkout stations. That has freed up staff members, whose salaries total about $120,000, for other tasks around the library.

Now I’m not entirely certain that staff salaries can be considered ROI. Unless staff was laid off you would have to pay those salaries anyway. The benefit here is not one of savings but opportunity-cost. By reassigning staff you have more opportunity to serve users. A study of user satisfaction or tracking of reference transactions might provide some quantification of the benefits. I’m not saying that the freeing up of staff isn’t a benefit. Surely it is. I only question where the ROI is being applied. Connecticut and UNLV are on the right track with their examination of benefits. I hope we see more publications from these institutions regarding it.


ALA Round-up

Filed under: — Laura @ 2:17 pm

I’ve finally got my thoughts about ALA organized – and I have many. I’ll put them into the extended post to help those of you who prefer shorter summaries in your aggegregator. ALA was a whirlwind of information regarding RFID. It includes: new privacy guidelines from affiliated orgizations, the debut of encryption solutions, best implementation practices, and a few vendor pronouncements.

Links featured in this post:
My notes on the Tips & Trends session

Bibliotecha on RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:12 am

Birgit Lindl, from Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems wrote an article for Research Information about the benefits of library RFID. It doesn’t have much in the way of new information. It does, however, mention a bit about ROI. It says:

The Mastics-Moriches Community Library in the state of New York carried out a time and cost analysis to compare the use of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) and RFID systems for circulation and found that the latter gave a saving in labour time of around 85 per cent
I hope Mastics-Moriches publishes their findings [thanks Information Overlord]


Another ROI tool

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:51 pm

This report “explores the benefits of RFID versus bar codes; the real costs of tags, readers and new software; where the technology really stands in terms of performance; and how to use it internally to drive ROI.”

ROI calculator tool

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:45 pm

Baseline magazine has a nifty spreadsheet for calculating return-on-investment. Unfortunately, it’s geared for warehouse/supply chain apps. More unfortunately, it also requires that you fill out the free subscription registration in order to use it.

Librarians could adapt the idea, however. Let me add that to the blog to-do list. And if somebody does it before me (likely), please mount it and let us all know.

This reminds me of a thread on RFID_LIB. I was brainstorming with our stack manager on what type of information we need to compare before and after an implementation in order to calculate ROI. Our working list is included in the extended post.

I’d like to write an “how-to-do-it” article on calculating ROI for RFID. I’d appreciate the thoughts of folks in this forum. Is there any other data that you think we should track?

BTW, Cal Poly still hasn’t committed to RFID purchase. We’re going to tour Oxnard PL next week (so there’s a big clue about one vendor still in the running).


Even the big guys don’t get ROI

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:00 am

Information Week reports on a study that says big companies don’t expect short term return-on-investment from RFID.


Labor savings demonstrated in Australian Library RFID Implementation

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:07 am

It cost $1.6 million for Baulkham Hills Council in Sydney’s west to introduce its RFID Self Server Kiosks to four library sites, with the majority of that cost being tagging. Yet systems technology team leader Murray Lawler says even at that price the council is achieving a major return on investment, after surveys showed 85 per cent of library staff’s time was previously taken up with circulation duties.

“Now that we have had our RFID in for six months, basically we’ve found only around 5 or 6 per cent of their time [is spent] on circulation duty, and the rest is free for them to do other things. So as far as that goes there’s a return on investment,” Lawler says.

[source: Sue Bushell, “Tags, You’re It,” CIO Australia 10/03/2004. Viewed 4/9/04]


Show me the money

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:01 pm

BTW, the Singapore PL uses ST LogiTrack’s Electronic Management System (ELiMS). It features the quotation from the National Library Board of Singapore Welcome to ELiMS Site.

The library system returns the value of investment cost in 1 to 2 years time!

Ok, so show me the spreadsheets….

ROI Update on Eugene, OR PL

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:59 pm

I’ve heard back from the folks at Eugene PL. They haven’t really done any cost/benefits or ROI analysis yet. They tell me, “We are looking at the implementation as a long-term investment, rather than an overnight turnaround in savings. As a new technology, the pay off is more in helping to shape where the technology and machinery are going than in dollars in the bank, and I think that is why there is not much
discussion of it in the literature as yet.”

They are very much interested in this type of analysis, however and were very gracious about providing me anecdotes about their real-world experiences.



Filed under: — Laura @ 10:32 am

I’ve been thinking a great deal about Return-on-Investment for RFID. Chris at technobiblio pointed me to a couple of sessions at the recent PLA conference which dealt with cost/benefits analysis. Unfortunately, none of the session materials are online. I’ve been in touch with the Eugene Public Library. I’m hoping they will be willing to share.

Implementing a solution is pricey. I’ve just completed a comparison of 5 vendors (3M, Checkpoint, Libramation, Vernon, VTLS) and the cost of a complete solution for our library ranges from roughly $500,000 to $850,000. We asked for quotations on a system with 4 self-check out units, 2 staff circ units, 1 technical services unit and a self-return/bin sorting system with 14 bins.

Let me tell you: It’s incredibly difficult to do an across-the-board equation. Every system differs in significant ways. For example, with Checkpoint you need to purchase a dedicated server for the security gates to query the circulation system. Other systems differ on the number and types of tag conversion stations required. Not every vendor provided pricing for bins and those numbers do not reflect taxes. They do include freight and installation, however.

How do we justify the cash outlay? I imagine we can hire many student shelvers for many years at those prices.

I’ve searched the library literature and haven’t found anything dealing with ROI on RFID. I’d much rather build on other peoples work but I suppose I should consider this a publishing opportunity.

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