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RFID in Libraries Guide

By Mansi Aggarwal

A technology that was originally developed for the military during World War II, and has now encompassed all walks of life by making its foray into retail, medical, education, automotives, fast food, travel industry, and so on, is RFID or Radio Frequency Identification.

RFID is basically one of the automatic identification systems like bar codes, smart cards, etc. which helps machines in identifying objects. It consists of a transponder or a tag which has an embedded integrated circuit and an antenna. The IC is encrypted with a unique electronic product code. The antenna allows the tag to receive and respond to radio frequency queries from an RFID transceiver. It thus, transmits the data stored in its IC to the receiver which in turn sends it to a central computer for processing.

New uses of RFID are being discovered every day. Using them in libraries is just one among them. Currently, approximately 120 million media and books in about 500 libraries worldwide are already attached with RFID labels, and this number is still progressing. With the introduction of RFID, the management of libraries is improving drastically. In libraries RFID plays a crucial role in checking the catalogues and allowing the customers to pass by card readers that automatically updates the computer system by synchronizing the ID information on patronís library card with the book and indicating that the book has been checked out. Thus, it ensures higher degree of accuracy in record keeping which is a very significant aspect of library management.

Moreover, it is expected that the new technology will help in reducing the costs and improve the tracking of library material as it moves in and out of the shelves. Thus, it will enable the libraryís staff to catch anyone who tries to take any material out from the library without their consent. Some of the latest RFID products designed specifically for libraries possess some powerful features such as providing real time information on returned and new items, fast sorting and return of popular items, providing self checkout of materials and allowing web based monitoring. In addition to this these systems can even notify the library staff by e-mail when a printer paper is low, and offer customers a choice of either a paper or e-mail receipt at checkout. RFID system will also meet the demand of complex IT and information research inquiries, such as tracing e-books and electronic journals and creating links to digital materials.

However, like any other new technology RFID has its own share of shortcomings. The most common of these drawbacks is its cost. Like most of the new technologies, RFID equipment such as RFID readers and tags are very expensive. Hence, it is financially impractical for the smaller and not so famous libraries to implement it. Moreover, RFID has some security issues attached to it as it violates citizenís privacy by tracking them and creating a database of their habits and activities.

However, despite all these drawbacks RFID is a very helpful tool for the libraries to streamline their management.

Mansi Aggarwal recommends that you visit RFID in libraries for more information.


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