RFID in Libraries

8/5/2004

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.

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