RFID: A Brief Bibliography

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 on January 19, 2005, which is included on the list of Intellectual Freedom Statements and Policies at:

David Dorman, formerly author of the "Technically Speaking" column in ALA's member magazine, American Libraries <http://www.ala.org/alonline>, has kept watch over the development of RFID as a viable technology for libraries, first taking note of vendor appearances at the 1999 ALA Annual Conference, the 2001 ALA Midwinter Meeting, and the 2002 ALA Midwinter Meeting, and then looking at the technology more in depth in the following columns:

September 2002: New Vendors Heating Up Radio Frequency ID Market
October 2003: RFID on the Move
December 2003: RFID Poses No Problem for Patron Privacy

The December 2003 issue of American Libraries also included these two articles from Managing Editor Gordon Flagg:

Flagg, Gordon. "Tracking Tags Raise Privacy Concerns at SFPL." American Libraries 34, no. 11 (2003): 22.

_____. "Conference Call: Should Libraries Play Tag with RFIDs? Librarians Jackie Griffin and Karen Schneider Discuss the Benefits and Problems of Using this Hot New Technology."American Libraries 34, no. 11 (2003): 69-71.

The Public Library Association (PLA, a division of ALA <http://www.ala.org/pla>) provides a Tech Note document on RFID technology:

"RFID Technology"
Prepared by Richard W. Boss

Boss expands upon his PLA Tech Note in the November/December 2003 issue of ALA's technology journal, <Library Technology Reports https://www.techsource.ala.org/ltr>, providing evaluations on the various RFID products available to libraries:

"RFID Technology for Libraries"
by Richard W. Boss
Library Technology Reports, Volume 39, Issue 6: Nov/Dec 2003

Following a definition of RFID, Boss reviews its library applications: security, rapid charging and discharging of library materials by staff, easier patron self-charging, sorting for reshelving, electronic inventorying, and electronic shelf reading. He also discusses available products, monetary and time costs, implementation procedures, and collection size.

The Top Technology Trends Committee of ALA's Library and Information Technology Association (LITA, a division of ALA <http://www.ala.org/lita>) discussed RFID at the 2004 ALA Midwinter Meeting, producing a set of useful online resources on the technology:

The Top Trends
Issue 2: RFID
RFID: Emerging Technology

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF <http://www.ala.org/oif>) prepared an annotated bibliography that both briefly describes and strongly addresses the various privacy issues inherent in the use of RFID technology:

"RFID: Radio Frequency IDentification Chips and Systems"


Book Industry Study Group. "RFID Resources." http://www.bisg.org/news/rfid.html.

Dorman, David. "Implementing RFID Technology in a Consortial Environment Using a Shared Library Management System." Lincoln Trails Library System. http://www.lincolntrail.info/RFIDInConsortialEnvironment.html.

Hodgson, Cynthia. "RFID in Libraries: Are We Ready?" Information Standards Quarterly 16, no. 4 (2004): 1-5.

Holt, Glen. "Keeping Up with Self-Check." The Bottom Line 16, no. 3 (2003): 111.

Oder, Norman. "RFID Use Raises Privacy Concerns: Tags Help Foster Circulation and Fight Theft; Standards Needed." Library Journal, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA332556.

"RFID in Libraries (web log)". http://libraryrfid.net/wordpress.

Schuyler, Michael. "Bar Codes: A Relic of the 20th Century." Computers in Libraries 22, no. 10 (2002): 42-3.

_____. "RFID: Helpmate or Conspiracy?" Computers in Libraries 24, no 1 (2004): 22-4.

Ward, Diane Marie. "March: RFID Systems." Computers in Libraries 24, no. 3 (2004) 19-24.

July 2005

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.

Related Links

Library RFID Systems Suppliers Showcase from Librarian's Yellow Pages
Radio Frequency Identification Handbook for Librarians (to be published in 2007)
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RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, history of RFID, privacy concerns and RFID
A brief bibliography of ALA and other resources on Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, technology, and its use in libraries.