Introducing RFID to the University of New Zealand

A Basic RFID Tag

A Basic RFID Tag

Dear Staff,

As you know, since taking over as the technology manager at the library of the University of New Zealand, I have been tasked with informing you of new technologies that I believe would benefit the library management system at the University.

RFID in Our Library:

The first and most vital technology update that needs to happen is the updating of our library security system from Tattle Tape and barcodes to RFID or Radio-frequency identification in order to stay relevant as an organisation facing the digital age.


RFID is a growing trend in libraries around the world and brings many benefits with it, including a reduction in our circulation duties and more options for customers to help themselves with self-checkouts and self-return machines, leaving our time free to answer questions and carry out more important work developing our library.

Karen Coyle writes an excellent article outlining the management of RFID in libraries today and this is an essential read for all staff. She outlines that RFID is not merely restricted to libraries and is actually prevalent throughout society from clothing security in retail stores to the chips used to trace animals. No staff member here can truly say that they have had no experience with RFID technology.

Survey of Organisations Using RFID

Mick Fortune’s Survey of Organisations Using RFID

A shift to RFID technology will not constitute major changes for our Library Management system, Sierra. This is illustrated well in several posts by RFID champion, Mick Fortune, who reiterates that it is merely a system designed to maintain the security and faster management of items. All decisions around loaning periods, overdues and requests are controlled by our LMS rather than the tag. Fortune has also carried out extensive surveys on libraries using RFID and is tracking the increase in libraries using the system, with academic libraries placing second.


RFID is not without its drawbacks and these have been extensively covered by many writers, including Richard Boss, who presented to the American Library Association on this issue and it includes a high cost for our organisation and a retraining of all our staff as well as  educating our students in the new system. The cost of each RFID tag is relatively high in relation to our current system and with our large collection, it would require a significant investment from the University to fund it. Sally Egloff has done some estimates on the cost of transferring a collection of our size over to RFID and it is not insignificant.


However, despite the costs and time involved, it is my firm belief that these will be outweighed by the eventual benefits to the organisation. Stephanie Handy has prepared a well-thought out report on the advantages and disadvantages of implementing RFID and this concludes with the benefits to the performance of the organisation outweighing the time and cost involved in such a transition. You should also read this interview with Chien-ju Chou of Taipei Public Library who recently implemented RFID and the benefits it has brought to their system, ways of working and customer interactions and imagine it doing the same for our organisation.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Introducing RFID to the University of New Zealand

  1. Thanks for including me in such exalted company as Richard and Karen!

    However I’m not sure that I’d call myself a “champion” for RFID – rather more often one crying out in the wilderness.

    I’ve spent most of the past six years trying to explain to librarians why we’re not deriving as much benefit from the technology as we should expect – in part due to a failure by many countries (including my own) to implement any kind of data standards for tags – thus limiting development to “one-off” solutions on a client by client basis. In 2011 I chaired the group that defined the UK data model for library use of RFID that is now used by pretty much everyone here – which was a major step forward, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. The New Zealand librarians I met at LIANZA in 2013 seemed unaware of the issue, Hopefully that has changed now?

    The recent emergence of NFC as a means of using smartphones and tablets to interact directly with tags has opened up libraries to both new threats, and new opportunities – as I have written about extensively on my blog ( But my main area of interest remains in systems and the poor levels of integration between RFID and LMS. My most recent post ( explains why I think we need a new approach to LMS procurement – one that can better leverage the investments already made in technologies like RFID. III’s approach with Sierra – making extensive use of web services to deliver new services – was the original inspiration for the development of the Library Communication Framework (see minutes of its steering group at and Bibliotheca’s North American agreement ( to build tighter integration with Sierra is – according to an email I received from Bibliotheca CEO Jim Hopwood at the time – based on using LCF.

    All very promising for a successful implementation!

    Good luck!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s