Posted by Lori Ayre on May 11, 2008

RFID technology for libraries still suffers from a lack of standards. Early adopters bought tags that aren't necessarily usable with today's RFID systems. RFID readers, security systems and materials handling systems are often purchased from a single vendor in order to ensure that all the components and tags work together. Tags that any library buys today will not necessarily work with all the circulation or security components a library might like to use in the future. One of the big standards hurdles is a data model standard. The data model specifies what information can be stored on a tag and where it will be located on the tag. This is an important first step toward interoperability.
In December of 2007, the NISO RFID Working Group published a Best Practices document that included a data model. Note that this is not a standard but a recommendation. The goals of the NISO RFID Working Group are:
1. To review existing RFID standards, assess the applicability of this technology in U.S. libraries and across the book publishing supply chain, and promote the use of RFID where appropriate.
2. To examine and assess privacy concerns associated with the adoption of RFID technologies in libraries
3. To investigate the way RFID may be used for the circulation or sale of books and other media in the United States and make recommendations.
4. To focus on security and data models for RFID tags, along with issues of interoperability and privacy.
5. To create a set of recommendations for libraries with regard to a tag data model and other issues.
Ultimately, the NISO RFID Working Group seeks a future where library RFID technology is truly interoperable (nationally as well as internationally) and personal privacy is protected. Ideally, tags will support advanced functionality and security, and can be used the entire lifecycle of the library material. The availability of Best Practices Guidelines and the data model recommendations are an important start to achieving interoperability but it still doesn't provide a standard that binds vendors. Even if vendors choose to meet the current data model guidelines, there are barriers to interoperability including issues related to encrypting and encoding of the data, proprietary security functions, and firmware that is system dependent.
Still.....libraries considering implementing RFID should follow the guidelines provided by the NISO RFID Working Group which include selecting a vendor that is compliant with the current NISO data model recommendation and a vendor with a published migration path for ensuring ongoing compatibility with new standards (per the NISO recommendations). Compliance with the guidelines provides the best protection that the library's choice of vendor and product will be interoperable with existing and future technology, and will preserve the library's investment.