RFID in Libraries


Dutch book supplier goes all RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 10:12 am

From Dow Jones Newswire:

UPM and NBD Use RFID to Track Books
Finnish forestry company UPM-Kymmene Oyj announced Dutch book supplier NBD Biblion will apply radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to all new books. The use of RFID will allow the companies to automatically track books in libraries. Under the deal, UPM will provide 50% of the tags, with more than one million RFID tags delivered already. [thanks Beth @ privacyrights.org]

More information [thanks Lori]

This is definitely a trend to watch. Some North American book jobbers are also including RFID tags in books, although only by library request. Examples which come to mind are: Blackwells, Baker & Taylor.


Position paper on RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 3:10 pm

Lori Ayre has made her draft chapter for a book on wireless privacy available. Go Lori!

Thanks to Mary Minnow for the heads-up. BTW, Mary has posted a draft of RFID info for California Association of Library Trustees and Commissioners. Notable for the links to privacy specific information.

Infopeople surveying CA librarians

Filed under: — Laura @ 2:58 pm

Infopeople and the California Library Association are surveying California librarians about RFID use.

Kent District Library considers RFID

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:33 am

The board of trustees for the Kent District Library in Michigan will be considering RFID at their next meeting. Library director Martha Smart (no relation) says they will be used to “hold the line” on staff costs. This is another good way of thinking about ROI – the number of staff you don’t have to hire.


Checkpoint announces 10 deals

Filed under: — Laura @ 3:29 pm

Checkpoint,getting a slew of business lately, has announced their latest contracts. Out of 10 contracts, two are academic libraries and eight are public.


RFID Intelligent Shelf

Filed under: — Laura @ 8:21 am

An interesting library RFID application is being discussed on RFID_LIB.

Nedap Library Solutions, a European firm, will soon be releasing an “intelligent RFID book shelf.”

I can see how in gathering in-house usage statistics would be more automated with reader-equipped shelves. No need to remind pages or student reshelvers to use the wand when making their rounds. And, it would be possible to tell if a book had simply been moved rather than taken off the shelf. This could make in-house usage stats more accurate. I wonder if the product will fly or if librarians will find inventory wands to be good enough for their needs.

Nedap is going to be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair – if anybody wants a demo.


Japanese library goes moblie

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:38 am

RFID in Japan writes that the patrons at the library at Roppoing Hills, Tokyo can use their cell phones to retrieve RFID tagged books.

It makes me think about Roy Tennent advocating that libraries start delivering content to handhelds. Based on my observation of undergraduates, I’d say he’s right, at least for academic libraries. Every kid coming through the door has a cell phone attached to his ear. I once even had one answer a call and walk away during a reference interview.

One of the biggest complaints at my library is that folks can’t locate materials on the shelf. What if their cell phone could provide them with a map, and when they get near the item their RFID enabled phone could indicate that they were within range?


Anita says it well

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:14 am

Anita has a good post over at the RFID Weblog rebutting some of the common points that RFID proponets give regarding privacy issues. These are points I’ve discussed on this blog, but I’m glad to see that even a booster of RFID like Anita can see the validity of addressing the security problems with the technology.


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.

RF-DUMP validates Molnar & Wagner

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:59 am

I know this is old news to most of you. It’s still worthy of a bit of discussion, however. While I was away on vacation there was an interesting little conference, the Black Hat Security Briefings, in Las Vegas. Lukas Grunwald, chief technology officer of DN-Systems Enterprise Internet Solutions, demonstrated the beta version of RF-DUMP .

RF-DUMP, in case you haven’t yet heard about it, is software which enables your laptop or PDA read or write to most standard RFID tags. This makes the malicious rewrites predicted in David Molnar & David Wagner’s paper on library RFID security possible.

Speaking of that paper, David Molnar tells me it’s been accepted for publication in the proceedings of the 2004 ACM Computer and Communications Security conference.

I was going to give you a round-up of the various articles that appeared on RF-DUMP during my absence, but Grunwald already did a nice one on the RF-DUMP web site.

Besides validating Molnar & Wagner’s forecast, the release of RF-DUMP also lends credence to the arguments of various privacy advocates. The EFF and ACLU and various others have rebutted claims that RFID privacy concerns are overblown. Proponents argue that read ranges are too short, that library tags work on a different frequency than commerial tags, the solutions offered by different vendors aren’t interoperable, and that hardware to read/write is too expensive for the average hacker to procure.

RF-DUMP supports ISO 15693 tags. The beta version is a free download. It claims to read many types of tags. Perhaps that sci-fi future that RFID proponents poo-poohed is closer at hand than they thought. The release of RF-DUMP indicates that there are indeed folks out there interested in “breaking” the security of the system. Fortunately these folks are affiliated with research (Molnar/Wagner are at UC Berkeley) and commercial interests, rather than malicious/criminal interests.

The only library vendor that I currently see taking measures to reduce privacy threats is Library Automation Technologies. Other vendors, please correct me if I am wrong. Library Automation Technology has the encryption technology and they will be licensing this to other vendors. Does any vendor have plans to license??


House Sub-committee hearing round-up

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:34 pm

On July 14 the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Sub-committee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection (what a mouthful!) held a hearing, “Radio Frequency Indentification (RFID) Technology: What the Future Holds for Commerce, Security and the Consumer.”

Transcripts and prepared testimonies should be available within a month or so. I’ve made links to articles reporting on the hearing in the extended post. Those on both sides of the issue trot out the same arguments we’ve already heard. One thing worth considering, however, is the notion of general privacy legislation covering all types of technologies. The Center for Democracy and Technology advocates such an approach.

Nokia releases cell phone RFID reader

Filed under: — Laura @ 5:06 pm

Remember that tidbit I wrote about Nokia developing a RFID-enabled mobile phone? The first product has been released. The Guardian reports that you can now use a cover for the Nokia 5140 phone which contains a tag reader.

The reader works on the 1356MHz frequency –hey! that’s the one used by library applications. A cell phone reader would be cheaper than ones currently offered by the library automation vendors. The code for the phone reader is written in Java so developers can create their own applications. I wonder how long it will take an enterprising vendor to create a library app? (or for unauthorized access by patrons weilding cell phone tag readers)

Microsoft joins RFID market

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:47 pm

In another example of the growing pervasiveness of RFID, Microsoft prepares to enter the RFID market.[Information Week]

Some enterprise applications are already being developed and a senior VP says that Windows may too become RFID-enabled. Most likely Windows-level RFID will take the a form resembling Bluetooth sending messages between computers and peripherals.

New contract for Bibliotecha

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:35 pm

Middlesex University in London will be the 1st UK installation for Bibliotheca.[Managing Information]

Australian guidelines

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:28 pm

A coalition of retailers, the national UPC code administrators, and the the Australian Privacy Commissioner are collaborating on a RFID code of practice. [Computerworld Australia]

Too bad the article doesn’t indicate to what exactly this code of practice pertains. The piece reads as if the retailers and UPC folks are only interested in collaborating on standards. At least they are working with the privacy folks.

Compare and contrast with how North American commercial interests have lobbied against legislative restrictions on RFID use. A code of practice is, by nature, self-policing, but it’s at least an acknowledgment of the issue.

Aussie NL releases RFID RFP

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:16 pm

The Australian National Library has issued a request for proposals to replace their current bar-code system and they would rather it be RFID. [Australian IT News]

Vendors out there – the RFP closes on August 13.

Not much new in the article but it does mention that the Australian Parliament Library uses RFID, as do the city libraries in Adelaide.

Salon.com article

Filed under: — Laura @ 4:08 pm

So. A week ago Salon.com published an article on RFID in Libraries (btw, you need to view an ad or have a subscription in order to read it).

Katherine Mieszkowski does a fairly balanced job or portraying the privacy debate. She says, “The (tag) numbers used aren’t interoperable between libraries now, but does that mean they will never be?”

If we ever hope to use the RFID tag during interlibrary loan they will be.


Return from R&R

Filed under: — Laura @ 9:49 pm

I’m back from vacation. I’m inundated with library-related RFID news. It may take me another day to find the time to read through it since I’m also dealing with the jam-packed in-box at work. But there are interesting developments all around. Salon.com did an article about library RFID. The mainstream media is really starting to pick up the topic. I realize it’s had national exposure in the library and computer literature. And there has been local newspaper exposure of individual library installations. I take that back. The readership of Salon.com is probably still saturated with info-techie types.

I’m happy to report that the WordPress installation on libraryrfid.net was a success. I still need to import this Typepad content and grab some design templates to make look a bit better. I have a few free days this month to work on it so it should be up and running very soon.

Stay tuned for reports on:
*Australian library RFID - new privacy guidelines, and the National Library releases an RFP
*A new installation for Bibliotheca
*Microsoft enters the RFID market
*the beta release of RF-DUMP - software for your laptop to read and write tags
*U.S. House Sub-committee hearings on RFID privacy issues
*More developments on RFID-enabled mobile phones

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