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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Project at the Tacoma Public Library

The Tacoma Public Library will be closed for two weeks, August 17 through August 31 to install RFID tags into all of its circulating books, movies, and music, estimated at more than 700,000 items.

No items will be due while the library is closed (you are welcome to return library items as book drops will remain open).

Why is the library doing this project?

RFID results in better service and faster checkout for our patrons

  • Circulation is processed faster (materials get to patrons faster)
  • Holds are processed faster (materials get to patrons faster)
  • Inventory control is improved (lost materials will no longer be shown in the library system)
  • Automates routine activities (staff can focus on customer assistance and outreach)

When this phase is completed at the end of August, the library's collection will be tagged, there will be RFID readers and new security gates will be installed at libraries, and the Main branch will pilot Self Check stations and inventory wands.

What is the cost of this project?

Phase 1 of the project costs $400,000 total: the City of Tacoma provided $200,000 from the General Fund and the Library used trust funds for the remaining $200,000.

When funded, Phase 2 will bring inventory wands and Self-Check stations to all locations.

Phase 3 will enable the library to utilize Automated Machine Handling (Book Sorters) and Smart Book Drops/Book Returns in larger locations.

The total cost of full implementation is $1.2 million.

What is RFID?

RFID is a data collection technology that relies on radio waves to automatically identify items - which in the case of the library includes books, CDs, DVDs, videos, etc. The technology transfers data from an RFID tag to a reader and then to the library's circulation database. An RFID tag is placed on every library item with the barcode number of that item stored on the tag. RFID readers are placed at staff workstations, self check machines, and built into security gates. When the tagged item is placed near a reader, the barcode of that item is sent to the library's circulation system and the item is checked in or out.

 RFID and self-service technology for libraries has been in use for more than 15 years. In fact, a recent report estimated that more than 30 million library items worldwide now contain RFID tags-the core component of any RFID system.

Is any personal information stored on the RFID tag?

No personal information is recorded on the RFID tag when an item is checked out or checked in. The only information stored on the tag is the barcode of the item. Links between borrowers and the items they borrow are maintained in the Library's circulation system and are broken after the item is returned. The library takes all reasonable steps to safeguard its circulation system and prevent unauthorized access to it.

Can the RFID tag be read once I leave the library?

RFID tags used in library applications do not have an internal power source or transmitter. Therefore, they can only be read from a distance of two feet or less when the tag reflects a signal from an RFID reader. Therefore, it is not possible for someone to read the tag from the street or another building or by satellite. Are there any health risks associated with RFID and radio waves? The radio waves in the library's RFID system operate at 13.56 MHz which is at the low - end of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves coming from RFID readers in the library (check out stations and security gates) have approximately the same strength as those coming from your car radio.

Are any library services available while the libraries are closed?

Yes. The library website will continue to be available.

You will be able to access all the library's online resources.

All library book drops will remain open during the library closure.

Questions or comments about the Tacoma Public Library's use of RFID should be directed to the Library Director (253) 292-2001 ext. 1111, branch manager, or by email to info@tacomalibrary.org

Last Updated 30.07.2015
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Tacoma Public Library · 1102 Tacoma Ave. South · Tacoma, Washington 98402 · 253.292.2001
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