Radio Frequency Identification graphicWhat is RFID?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a technology that uses radio waves to transfer data from an electronic tag attached to a library item through a reader for the purpose of identification. The Cumberland County Library System is upgrading to RFID which will assist with collection management, allow for faster customer service, increase circulation accuracy, and provide ease of use at self-check stations. 

RFID has been an established technology in libraries for years, and part of the library system’s strategic plan since 2012. However, improvements in RFID technology in the last 10 years have made elements interoperable and brought the cost down to a price-point the library system could afford due to a bequest from the Charles Curtis Estate. 

While the items are being tagged and converted to RFID for a mid-2021 launch, infrastructure changes are ongoing:

  • RFID reader pads are being installed at the circulation desks and at the self checkout stations.
  • Some libraries are having RFID reader gates installed.
  • All libraries will receive inventory wands.

Starting in early 2020, the library system has introduced additional technology enhancements to meet customer service needs such as emailed due date slips, text messaging of circulation notices with real time interactive features, and a mobile app to view checkouts and due dates, renew items, search the catalog, explore online resources, and more!

What is RFID used for?

RFID is used by the Library to help with inventory and to speed up the process of checkouts and check-ins for our patrons. RFID technology allows for faster identification of items being checked out, eliminating the need to manually scan each item. 

Does RFID do anything after I've left the Library?

No. RFID tags only function when they are within range of the RFID equipment at the Library.

Can someone get my personal information from RFID tags in books?

No. RFID tags are solely for inventory purposes. No personal information is stored on them.

How do they work?

RFID tags do the same job as a barcode, but only have to be in close range of the equipment rather than scanned under a light. 

  • Inventory wands can identify items with activated tags on the library shelf. 
  • At a staff desk or self-checkout station, the computer system reads the tags to detect which items are present. Each tag is deactivated at checkout, and reactivated at checkin. 
  • When an RFID tag passes through a gate, the gate checks to see if the item is checked out or not.

RFID readers installed at the circulation desk and self-check stations are able to read multiple tags simultaneously for quicker circulation and customer service.

Motion related injuries and human error associated with scanning barcodes will be reduced. It will allow for more more meaningful interactions between staff and library visitors.

Over 500,000 library materials now have an RFID tag that communicates with the library's collection and inventory control system. When an RFID tag passes through a gate, the gate checks to see if the item is checked out or not. Tags are switched off when items are checked out to allow quiet passage through the library's gates. Lighted alarmed gates notify staff of titles that pass through the gates without being checked out, and titles can be verified to correct this. 

What if I set off the alarm when I go through the gate?

Return to the circulation desk so library staff can address the issue,  just the way you would return to a cashier if your package set off an alarm leaving a store. They can tell you which title needs to be corrected and fix the problem quickly. 

Will people be able to find out what I’m reading by secretly scanning my items?

No, the only information written to the item tags is a barcode so the library can easily identify the item.

Page Updated

February 26, 2021