Posted by Lori Ayre on January 6, 2008

I just finished The Complete RFID Handbook by Diane Marie Ward. It's excellent. Every library considering RFID should read it. Ward provides nice coverage of the technology (including the obligatory statement about how RFID has been used since WWII) andshe explains the technology thoroughly but in accessible language.

She does the best job I've ever seen in explaining library applications for RFID with a strong focus on the benefits of using portable scanners for shelf reading and for locating misshelved material.

Aside: Right now, I'm working on a materials handling study and finding that a big issue for my client is the time it takes to locate items that have been put on Hold. Libraries can spend hours tracking down items needed to fill requests. Many are never found and ultimately they get removed from the catalog. With RFID, inventory can be done quickly and easily which means libraries might actually do it! I hadn't really grokked the significance of this application before. I only noted that RFID vendors push it and libraries don't use it. But I think it's big. Using RFID makes inventory do-able. Inventorying collections keeps the catalog current. A current catalog increases the changes that an item that is supposed to be somewhere really will be there. Combine this with more shelf-reading (also made much easier with RFID) and you get a much more satisfactory experience for customers (who actually find what they are looking for) and a much more efficient operation for library staff. Win. Win.

Ward has a chapter on ROI but of course she articulates more intangible benefits than tangible. Why? Because no one has the hard data yet for the more tangible benefits of RFID. Still, she does a great job of providing some numbers to work with and covers the RSI connection as well as it can be at this point given the lack of data there as well.

If you are thinking of doing an RFI, RFQ or RFP for RFID...this manual is a must. She puts together a very nice outline for getting you started and on your way with a sample structure fully populated with questions to ask the vendor.

She covers the marketplace well -- both Europe and the U.S. -- and addresses installation and maintenance as well as selection and implementation.

There's also a DVD with interviews and demos of equipment (which I would have liked indexed so I could jump to specific excerpts, but oh well, I'm not complaining).

Overall, this is a great resource and its about time someone did this. Good job, Diane!