Since the late 1980’s, libraries have been slowly adopting RFID (radio frequency identification) technology as a supplement to barcodes for library material identification and also as a way to replace legacy EM (electro-magnetic) security technologies (e.g. security strips). RFID provides a single system for efficiently checking in, checking out, and securing library material and because it is based on radiowave technology, it does not require line-of-sight. Unlike barcodes, which must be scanned one a time, multiple RFID-tagged items can be set on an RFID pad and checked in or checked out.
RFID helps staff work faster and more ergonomically than one-at-a-time barcode systems. RFID is also easier for patrons to use at the self-check-out machines. Not only can staff and patrons check-out multiple items at a time, patrons are also less likely to be confused by the self-check-out process (e.g. distinguishing between barcodes and ISBN tags).
Although there are several benefits to using RFID, adoption has been slow because of the cost of implementing RFID systems and also because the technology was lacking key standards that made investing in RFID somewhat risky – until fairly recently.