Posted by Lori Ayre on April 12, 2006

This announcement , from the National International Standards Organization, represents the first step in a long process of establishing a data model (schema) for library RFID tags. These are the standards that will lead to interoperable and secure systems. We need these standards in order to reap the greatests rewards of RFID in the library.

From the announcement:
Bethesda, MD (USA) - March 21, 2006 - The National Information Standards Organization has formed a Technical Committee to create guidelines that lay out best practices for the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) in library applications. Chaired by Dr. Vinod Chachra, CEO of VTLS Inc., the diverse group is composed of RFID hardware manufacturers, solution providers (software and integration), library RFID users, book jobbers and processors, and related organizations. The NISO Committee's work is limited to RFID tags used in libraries, that is, tags operating at 13.56 MHz.

This best practices document will form a part of a larger input document on U.S, requirements for the ISO TC 46 working group developing a standard data model for encoding information on the tag. The group will also coordinate with American Library Association/Book Industry Study Group working group around the interaction of technology and privacy issues.

The current generation of tags are essentially being used as glorified bar codes. This has some benefits but it does't take advantage of the most exciting possibilities inherent in RFID technology. Once we tap into the power to read and write to tags, store useful information on the tags and use them to intelligently respond to the environment, we can develop those Library 2.0 approaches to browsing the stacks. Imagine books that could not only check themselves in and out but could also be used to track where the book was as it moved through the library's delivery system (but couldn't be used to track our patron's movements). Imagine a tag that could send a bibliographic citation to a library user's PDA or a book that could alert the shelver that it was in the wrong place or needed to be weeded. Imagine books that were smart enough to identify themselves as candidates for offsite storage because they hadn't been removed from the shelf even once in the last 10 years?

There are possibilities far beyond RFID Tag As Bar Code, but they require the tags to be standardized and the data adequately secured. This standards process is just the beginning.

Now, let's be sure there are librarians on the NISO Committee. Not just tag manufacturers, vendors and publishers.

Also, let's start thinking outside of the bar code box and get ready for the next generation of tags. Librarians need to lead the development of library RFID applications. Not the book publishers and jobbers. Afterall, they'll just use the tags to get them to us. We'll be using them for a lifetime - a book's lifetime.