Posted by Lori Ayre on August 23, 2012

Now that we have a national data model, namely ISO 28560-2, it is incumbent on libraries to figure out what to do with it.  Given that there are 24 data elements defined in the data model, only two of which are mandatory (Primary Item ID aka barcode and Tag Content Key), how does the library decide which of those optional 22 it will use?

First of all, one needs to understand what each of the fields are.  In truth, there are not actually 22 more fields to consider because some are used in place of others depending on how the library chooses to use them (e.g. Owner Library is used if you have an ISIL or OCLC code, but if not you may want to use Alternative Onwer Library Identifier, but not both).  There are also three "Local Data" fields.  These can theoretically be used any way the library likes.  In fact, I've already heard of one library using a Local Data field to facilitate sorting of a certain category of material that required special handling.  

To figure out how to benefit from the options associated with the new data model, you have to think about your workflow and you'll, unfortunately, have to think about the restrictions imposed on you by your ILS.  You may have a brilliant idea for how to use data on the tags but if you can interact with the tag data due to a limitation imposed by your interface to the ILS, you aren't going to get very far. Not everything you might want to do with the tags requires interaction with your ILS.  But not everything you might want to do requires the ILS. It may just a function of working with your RFID vendor.  Therefore, I recommend you get creative and talk about your brilliant ideas right away with your RFID vendor(s), and if necessary, your ILS vendor. 

At some point, you'll need to start thinking about the realities and ramifications of using different fields. Each field must be used correctly and the entire tag requires adherence to the standard in terms of the actual encoding process. To ensure that your tags meet the standard, you may want to take advantage of a new planning service offered by Convergent Software.  

Convergent Software is a UK company.  One of the principals is Paul Chartier who has been very active in RFID standards development (among other things).  The service they have rolled out allows libraries to subscribe to their software to try their hand at using the different data elements and encoding them, and taking advantage of having access to the knowlegebase that Paul and his team (and all subscribers of the service) will be building up.  I've been talking a lot with Paul about the service and advising as to how I imagine it could be used by U.S. libraries.  I think it is a much needed service for everyone and I'm thankful they've finally gotten it off the ground.

If you are thinking about migrating your existing RFID system to the new standard or are getting ready to implement RFID for the first time, I strongly recommend you look into the Planning Service as a way to experiment with using different data elements, experiment with various arrangements of data on your tags (the order of the elements can affect performance), and experiment with encoding the tags.  

This Planning Service provides libraries an opportunity to take responsibility for how they want to use the tags rather than passively accepting whatever their RFID vendors tells them to do.  To leverage the technology, we need to understand it better and I think this service will help libraries do that.

I hope libraries will start learning more about how RFID technology works and begin to expand the ways we use it in acquisitions, receiving, interlibrary loan, inventory/stock management, and security.  Eventually, we'll be using RFID tags to provide new services to our patrons too.  It would be nice to figure out what those services are now so that when our patrons arrive with their RFID-enabled smartphones, we are ready.

For more on the possibilities for using the additional data elements, I hope you'll check out the July issue of Library Technology Reports that I authored entitled "RFID in Libraries: A Step Toward Interoperability."  You can buy the whole issue, or just buy it chapter by chapter from ALA TechSource.

To keep abreast of Convergent's Planning Service (and to get lots of other great info about RFID), consider signing up for their newsletter at  Here's a link to their latest newsletter