RFID in Libraries


Update on SFPL status

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:49 pm

David Dodd from SFPL tells me that, depite what they say in the Senate Committee, the SFPL Library has definately not made a decision regarding RFID> They will be meeting next week, Thursday, May 6, to discuss it again. Take note: SFPL has updated its draft privacy policy. The most recent version supercedes the draft scanned in by Eric Ipsen. I’ll post a link to the policy once it is approved.

I’ll be in the Bay area on business 5/6 & 5/7, so I’ll try to attend the hearing.

More on SB 1834

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:32 am

Information Week also has an article about the approval of the California bill – and they get the number correct!

CA SB1834 Passed - SFPL approves plans??

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:24 am

The California RFID Privacy bill passed its third reading yesterday. It has now been passed to the assembly floor where it was held. The Senate committee analysis dated 4/26/04 says that

The San Francisco Public Library Commission has approved plans to start tagging library books with RFID chips by 2005. Questions have been raised about whether the technology will give anyone with an RFID reader, including homeland security agencies and businesses, the ability to track and identify people and the library books they’re carrying.

That is news to me. I don’t recall that the commission approved anything, but I could have missed it during my skimming of their minutes. I thought that the consensus of the Committee was that it would consider the issues before deciding whether or not to approve the procurement. Can somebody from the Bay area bring me up-to-date? Note also that the Senate bill analysis doesn’t have any organizations on record as supporting the bill, but opposition has been given by organizations with business interests. If you’re in California and you support what Sen. Bowen is trying to do, get in touch.

RFID Journal has a detailed article discussing the legislation. They call the bill SB 2208. I don’t know where they came up with that. There’s no bill 2208 listed on the official California legislative information web site for either the Assembly or the Senate. The article also discusses upcoming legislative actions in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.


Details from the SFPL Commission meeting

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:21 pm

Independent consultant Eric Ipsen scanned in the minutes and handouts from the 3/4/04 meeting of the San Francisco Public Library Commission. BTW, I kept refering to them as the Library board in my previous posts. I stand corrected.

Many thanks to Eric! The handouts include some great information, including the Berkeley PL best practices policies, a description of SFPL’s anticipated operational benefits, a nice page on repetitive stress injuries, and some general pricing info. I haven’t yet read them in detail, but will post my comments (if any) when I take a closer look. And yes, I’m also still working on the generic reqs from the Netherlands. I do have a job and a family life…

The minutes package.
The policy docs.

And the winner is….

Filed under: — Laura @ 3:35 pm

Cal Poly has decided to postpone its decision on which RFID solution to take. Our dean has charged us with gathering some more details. This means a rapid road-trip. I suspect it also means we won’t be announcing anything until after ALA annual. Sorry to dissapoint, but better safe than sorry when you’re going to be spending this kind of cash.

RFID on California Connected

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:45 am

California folks may want to tune into this week’s episode of California Connected. A colleague tells me that they will be discussing RFID tonight. I haven’t been able to confirm since their web site doesn’t list upcoming shows. They do, however, have online forums for ongoing discussion about issues they raise on the show and great links to additional information. Should they air something about RFID this evening, I suspect it will be worthwhile.

Self check impact on lib staff

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:25 am

While this article from the Birmingham News about self-check kiosks refers to barcode based systems rather than RFID. It does, however, raise the issue of job loss for library physical services staff. The Homewood Public Library is only getting 2% of their check-outs done via self-check – a dismally low figure. One southern Califonia library I visited is getting 62% of their checkouts via their RFID self-check (and their circulation is 1 million/year and growing). The only reason it is not higher is because they continue to process all media at the circ desk.

Vendors typically tout the reassignment of staff to other public service functions as an advantage. A library can provice more public service. But what assurances can a library staffer get (especially during this economic downturn) that their jobs won’t simply be eliminated?

Something to ponder. [via Eric, and via LISnews]


Tools for creating RFID RFP

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:10 pm

The Netherlands Association of Public Libraries has created a set of generic RFID requirements for public libraries. I found this while snooping through my referrer log. I haven’t had time yet to read it, but will post my thoughts/comments once I get caught up.

Berkeley PL best practices

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:56 pm

The Berkeley Public LIbrary has made available its RFID best practices. They will soon be posting a FAQ (no doubt to dispel the controversy which has dogged their neighbors across the Bay). BTW, under “Vendor news” Berkeley PL selected Checkpoint as their vendor.


London Library chooses 3M RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:12 am

This article in Managing Information News describes how the Borough of Sutton selected 3M RFID is the first library to use 3M’s one tag solution.

UM Center for Information Policy

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:02 am

The University of Maryland’s Center for Information Policy (CIP) is currently researching RFID. According to its web site:

Another project is considering the use of information collection and transmission technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and smart cards. As expected, our research has found a significant lack of public understanding of the technology, but surprisingly, a significant level of distrust even in the context of homeland security applications, and a very significant consensus for governmental regulation.

They haven’t posted any of the research yet. They don’t have an RSS feed, but you can subscribe to their newsletter by sending an email to infopolicy@umd.edu


New email list

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:21 pm

Margaret Hazel from the Eugene OR public library has established an email list for discussing RFID in Libraries. Thanks Margaret! (and yes, I am a subscriber)

The list is called RFID_LIB. It is hosted by the library school at SJSU.

Send an e-mail message to the list software, which in San Jose’s case is
called, listproc.

To: listproc@listproc.sjsu.edu

Ignore the Cc, attachment, and Subject lines.

In the body, type subscribe RFID_LIB Firstname Lastname (where firstname is
your first name and lastname is your Lastname.) Do not include anything else
in the message. This is an automated command that the listproc software at
the other end recognizes

Caveats on docs

Filed under: — Laura @ 11:26 am

I would like to add some more information about handouts I mentioned yesterday. The questions our library developed do not contain many references to privacy issues. This is because our understanding of the controversy is evolving. Those documents are a snapshot in time. When we wrote them, we were of the understanding that violations of privacy within the library setting were unlikely. This was due to the limited range of RFID tag readers, the lack of links between tags and patron records, and the rarity of encountering tag readers outside of the library setting. We feel a bit differently now.

Anybody who uses these documents should add questions regarding privacy issues.


CARL Poster Handouts

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:23 pm

I’m presenting a poster “Rifling through RFID” this weekend at the California Academic & Research Librarians conference. If you’re attending CARL, be sure to pop by and say hello.

Abstract: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been in the news as a possible threat to patron privacy a key philosophical foundation of librarianship. This poster provides a brief introduction to RFID tags and their advantages and disadvantages for libraries. Cal Poly Pomona University Library is currently reviewing the technology and has come up with a list of questions to ask RFID vendors and an evaluation checklist for reviewing implementations at other libraries.

The handouts available on my work web site. All the credit goes to the Cal Poly Pomona RFID team – they created the questions and evaluation checksheet.

SB1834 Hearing postponed by Committee

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:04 pm

The 4/13 hearing on SB 1834 was postponed.


Blog Plans

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:19 am

My to-do list for this blog:

  • fix the Netscape problem
  • port the site to it’s own domain name under Movable Type
  • allow multiple contributors
  • link to bibliography of Library RFID publications
  • get my blogroll onto the main page (ps – can anybody who knows how to do that send me the instructions? i find the ones at bloglines a bit arcane. thanks!)

Just so you all know what’s in store. No promises on timeline, however.

Federal Trade Commission to hold RFID workshops

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:13 am

The FTC will be having public workshop on privacy & RFID on 6/21/2004. They have a request for participation and public comment. [Thanks Beth]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie K. Brof, Attorney, (206) 220-
4475, Northwest Region, Federal Trade Commission, 915 Second Avenue,
Suite 2896, Seattle, WA 98174. Prior to the workshop, an agenda and
additional information for attendees will be posted on the FTC’s Web
site, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshop/rfid.

RFID Journal Editorial on Privacy Discussion

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:58 am

An editorial in RFID Journal calls for “A Constructive RFID Dialogue” on privacy issues. I think it’s notable because it calls for international cooperation and it calls for a balance between reaping the benefits of technology and providing consumer protection. RFID Journal actually wants to fund a conference on the issue, due to Senator Leahy’s calls for dialog.


HP: RFID chip price expected to drop below US$0.05

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:12 am

HP announced at a conference in Taipai that RFID chip price is expected to drop below US$0.05.

Library chips currently run between $0.50 and $0.70 for regular tags and about a buck or so for special media tags (VHS, DVD etc.).

I presume HP is only referring to the type of tags used in warehouse applications. Library tags would probably follow suit and become cheaper – but we might not see it as soon.

Cheaper chips equal ubiquitous chips.


Librarian speakers @ Computer Privacy Conference

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:45 am

Beth Givens (former librarian) head of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Jackie Griffin from the Berkeley Public Library will be speaking on “RFID and Privacy” at CFP 2004 / Computer Freedom & Privacy Conference.

It’s in Berkeley on April 20-23, so local folks may want to check it out (although only students may be able to afford it).


Cell Phone as RFID reader

Filed under: — Laura @ 2:39 pm

Nokia has released a Mobile RFID kit.

MS Forms RFID Council

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:30 am

E-Commerce News: Wireless: Microsoft Forms RFID Council. [thanks Beth for the pointer].

3M single tag solution

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:22 am

3M is finally offering a RFID only solution. It’s not exactly news, since they announced this at PLA, but I forgot to post about it.


Big Corps Opposed to Mandatory Kill

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:37 pm

I hate to be cynical, but, um, it’s no big suprise to me that big companies and retailers don’t want to kill RFID tags upon purchase See Wired News: Watchdogs Push for RFID Laws

Sorry about the typos

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:58 am

A thousand apologies for the typos in the last post – serves me right for posting while babysitting a busy toddler. It figures my messy post would be there on the day Jessamyn links to the blog.

Also, apologies to the Netscape users out there. I’ve figured out why the left column isn’t rendering for you folks. It’s going to take me a couple of days to find time to make the fix, so please bear with me.


More thoughts on scary scenario

Filed under: — Laura @ 1:34 pm

My sweetie & I were discussing SB 1834 and David’s scary scenario this afternoon as we drove from LA to San Diego. We came to the conclusion that encryption is the best way to work around the potential of any Joe-Blow using a tag reader & sensor to learn what book you’re carrying.

If the info on the tags was encrypted, only those people with authorized keys could access it.

Librarians can create ethical guidelines/best practices for RFID implementation, write technological specifications for privacy on the tags and work with vendors to ensure the inclusion of those specs in RFID solutions. We can also work with legislators to ensure that encryption technology is allowed within our legal frameworks.

Sound good?


Privacy Invasion Scenario

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:41 am

I’ve been thinking that the privacy invasion implications of library RFID use were minimal given the current state of technology. What harm could be caused with low frequency readers and only item number information on the tag, right? Well, David Alexander Molnar from Berkeley has made me reconsider. He posits the following scenario [reposted with permission]:

Suppose we put RFID readers in the metal detector (and x-ray machines) at
the airport. The range issues with RFID are not much of an issue here,
since the metal detector is closer than the exit sensors of library RFID
deployments – if they work, placing them in the metal detector should
work as well (ignoring interference between reader and detector).

Now suppose we are interested only in seeing if a person is carrying a
copy of the Qur’an. We don’t care about other books, just this one. We go
to all the libraries near the airport, check out all their copies of the
Qur’an, read the RFID tag and record the bar code on the tag. Now if
someone walks through the metal detector with a copy of the Qur’an from
the area, we know.

This works *even if we don’t have the library database*. All we need is
for the number on the tag to be static.

I think David’s concept is plausible. Copying the id numbers from the tags of books from local libraries would take footwork, to be sure. But as David says, “The thing is, the footwork can be incremental. The bar codes don’t expire.”

Blog fine-tuning

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:24 am

I’ve had reports that the left hand column isn’t appearing for some folks - can anybody experiencing this who has not yet reported it to me please let me know?

U.S. Intra-government RFID council proposed

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:18 am

The U.S. Department of Defense is seeking to create an
intra-government RFID council to coordinate adoption
plans and ensure that all departments are using the
same technology.

Full Story[Source: RFID Journal]

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]

Bibliotecha SIP2 Certified for Sirsi

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:56 am

Integrating Bibliotecha’s RFID system to Sirsi software shouldn’t be a problem now. Managing Information reports on Bibliotecha’s Sirsi SIP2 certification.

SB 1834 Senate Bill - Bill Analysis

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:50 am

The analysis of California SB 1834was posted. It’s next hearing date is 4/13/04.


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 - Singapore

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:48 pm

Are we ready for radio? - ManagementFocus - theage.com.au
discusses some of the ROI that Singapore Public Library has reaped

I quote:

Libraries increase lending capacity Singapore’s island-wide network of 23 public libraries is a good example of item-level tagging in a semi-retail environment. All 10 million books and CDs in the libraries have been tagged.

The borrower drops returned items into an RFID-reader book chute. The previous system required people to queue up for up to an hour at peak times. “We can do a stock-take of 100,000 items in just four hours now,” says Wong Tack Wai, senior manager of service innovation and development at Singapore’s National Library Board. “Previously, we had to close the library for a week.”

Singapore’s public libraries have drastically increased their lending capacity as a result of using RFID. In financial 2003, the board projects that it will make 31.7 million loans and handle 31.5 million customers. In 1997, before the system was implemented, the libraries handled some 22 million loans and 12.8 million customers.

It’s not quite a hard dollars & cents justification, but at least if provides some figures.

RFID Blocker Concerns?

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:23 pm

Scott at Information Manager Journal
reports on the EFF’s thoughts on the RFID tag blocker technology being developed by RSA. At this point the blocker blocker is conceptual but Scott raises interesting questions on potential government regulation. Reminds me of radar dectectors….

Color Change

Filed under: — Laura @ 3:56 pm

Based on user feedback, I’ve decided to update the colors on the blog. Thanks to Beth @ privacyrights.org for the feedback. And a big warm welcome to folks linking in from there.

Do please let me know if the new look doesn’t work for you. I can keep futzing with it.

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.


Donut tags may impede CD/DVD

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:11 am

Bagel belly reports that an RFID tag on a CD (borrowed from the East Anglia University CD library) broke the combo drive on his Mac.


More Info on CA RFID Privacy Bill

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:20 am

I promised to investigate the status of California’s proposed RFID privacy bill. SB 1834 was introduced by state Sen. Debra Bowen on 2/20/2004. The bill was amended and read a second time on 4/1/2004. It is currently with committee.

The original bill covered retail applications and was appended to the Business and Professional Code. In essence it labelled businesses that didn’t comply with the privacy guidelines “unfair competition” and subjected them penalties. The 4/1 amendment would “authorize a library to use RFID tags attached to circulating materials to
collect information that could be used to identify a borrower under specified conditions.”

Those conditions are:

22651. A library may use an electronic product code system that
uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags attached to
circulating materials only to collect, store, use, or share
information that could be used to identify a borrower if all of the
following conditions are met:
(a) The information is collected only to the extent permitted by
(b) The information has been provided by the borrower for the
purpose of borrowing an item containing an RFID tag at the library.
© The information is not collected at any time before the
borrower actually attempts to borrow the item or at any time after
the customer completes the transaction to borrow the item containing
the RFID tag.
(d) The information is collected with regards only to a borrower
who actually attempts to borrow the item and is in regard only to
that item.

I think these conditions are a good start. But they don’t do far enough. There should be an explicit statement governing the linking of borrowing information with patron information. In most RFID systems, the link between the two is within the integrated library system not programmed on the tag. That link should only be used when the patron is checking out material and when the patron returns the item. That patron information should already be governed by a library’s privacy policy. For example, at my library only staff with a direct need-to-know would be authorized to view that patron info. And the borrowing information is removed as soon as the item is returned. It could be on the back-up tape for the ILS, but the information would have to be subpeoned. And it would only be on those back-ups for three months anyway.


Library Journal - SFPL Vote on RFID May Come April 1

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:52 am

Library Journal - SFPL Vote on RFID May Come April 1 Thanks to cj for the pointer. Looks like SFPL is working on a costs/benefits analysis. Better late than never.

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