RFID and Libraries

ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 25

What is RFID? RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification.

As explained on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the web site for the RFID Journal < http://www.rfidjournal.com >, Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is "a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify individual items." RFID has been evolving into a more effective, convenient, and cost-efficient technology since World War II. American companies, especially those in the automotive, packaging and handling, and retail industries, began to integrate RFID technology into the structure of their businesses in the late 1990s. In 2000, several libraries around the world announced their intent to integrate RFID technology into their library systems, pioneering its use for contemporary library functions, including the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Lied Library; the National University of Singapore Library; the New Hanover County Public Library of Wilmington, North Carolina; and the Santa Clara City Library of Santa Clara, California.


ALA Council adopted the Resolution on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology and Privacy Principles (PDF) on January 19, 2005.

Ayre, Lori Bowen. RFID in Libraries: A Step Toward Interoperability. Chicago, IL: ALA TechSource, 2012.

Palmer, Martin. Making the Most of RFID in Libraries. London: Facet, 2009.

Ward, Diane Marie.The Complete RFID Handbook: A Manual and DVD for Assessing, Implementing, and Managing Radio Frequency Identification Technologies in Libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2007.

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has a webpage of resources covering organizations that oppose the misuse of RFIDs, a link to a discussion list, and some more recent news items.

The Library and Information Technology Association (LITA, a division of ALA) has a RFID technology interest group for those who want to talk and meet fellow librarians with an interest in this area.

The RFID in Libraries: Privacy and Confidentiality Guidelines webpage offers information about the privacy and confidentiality issues surrounding the use of RFID by libraries.


Additional resources can be found in the ALA Library's RFID List on Worldcat.

To find vendors offering RFID, search the American Libraries Buyers Guide.


June 25, 2013

For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: library@ala.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.