15. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Uncategorized

The following is an article I wrote back in February for Access - CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries Group Journal.

For reasons that are still unclear to me it has never appeared, and since tomorrow sees the establishment of the governance body for BIC’s Library Communication Framework – something I believe will help deliver better and more economic solutions for our beleaguered public library service – I wanted to raise awareness among UK public librarians about the work done on their behalf by some of the agencies with which I work so – after advising the editor yesterday – I am publishing it here instead.

Besides, I spent a lot of time writing it and it seems a pity to waste the effort.


Helping to meet the challenge of technology

The UK public library service is changing.

That’s the least provocative opening I could think of – and about as anodyne as most of the remarks made by politicians I’ve read these past few years.

It is nonetheless an obvious truth. Whether you see the future of the service as being a community hub, entirely digital or returning to “traditional” values (whatever they might be) there can be little disagreement that the service will have to deal with some major challenges.

Many of these challenges are of course political in nature. Should library hardware, paid for out of library budgets, be re-purposed to pay your council tax bill for example?

Others may require commercial interests to be aligned with public expectations – should digital services be available universally?

But whether these challenges are political, economic or cultural there is a common thread that I believe runs through almost all of them – technology. More »

14. July 2014 · 3 comments · Categories: Surveys

A perennial question is which library management systems have been successfully installed with which RFID solutions?

I’m never too eager to publish this information since I fear that some may simply look for their ILS/LMS and see which RFID suppliers they should consider. Why is that a bad idea? Well if you’re not buying a solution based on the data standards recommended by the various national bodies around the world (the vast majority of them based on ISO 28560) then I suppose it’s the only way you can be sure of buying something that might work. More »

Last week’s publication of survey results provoked a couple of people to ask me how many UK public libraries are now using self-service kiosks in their libraries.

It’s a difficult question to answer for several reasons. Suppliers don’t publish lists of their clients, not every library responds to the survey, some libraries may still be using other technologies to support self-service (something that began long before RFID appeared),not everyone using RFID is in fact using it to provide self-service and even those that are have not deployed it across the whole authority. More »

An area of the keenest interest each year is the question of supplier performance. In previous years information supplied has been grouped by company and a summary report sent both to respondents and suppliers. All information provided remains anonymous to ensure that none of those brave enough to venture an opinion can be readily identified by their supplier. My reason for giving this guarantee is that I am told that unhappy suppliers sometimes discourage criticism quite vigorously and, though I recognise that protecting everyone’s identity is not a foolproof way of establishing completely accurate information about supplier performance it is probably the only way to give some respondents the confidence to share their opinions. More »

10. June 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Uncategorized


Day two of this year’s analysis looks in more detail at how libraries are using RFID to manage their assets, which frequencies and standards are most common and how RFID systems communicate with library management systems (usually referred to as “LMS” or “ILS”). More »

09. June 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Uncategorized

With so many replies to this year’s survey I will be publishing the findings as a series of posts – reflecting my progress in analysing the data. Today we begin with the basics – where the replies came from and how the respondents are using RFID to enhance their operational abilities.

This year has been more successful in gathering data from beyond the English speaking word than in previous years and future posts will compare the situation in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand with some of the more mature European RFID markets – in France, Germany and the Netherlands. For now however I hope this first post will be of some interest… More »

21. April 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized

As RFID suppliers continue their expansion into new areas of the library market – such as 3M’s Cloud Library®, or D-Tech’s The Link® – Bibliotheca’s latest offering sees the company bring a new meaning to “library management”. More »

12. April 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized

After much lobbying the survey is back! Regular respondents will be pleased to know however that this year’s survey is much shorter than usual.

Like the very first survey – in 2009 – the intention is primarily to try and establish how many libraries are using the technology – and in what ways. Since that first survey many things have changed and RFID is now frequently used for stock control, resource discovery, smart shelving and acquisition as well as with smartphones and tablets offering a growing number of new applications.

I’m frequently asked for information about the scale of RFID use in libraries around the world. Not only librarians but suppliers, investors, library and cultural agencies and even governments want to know who’s using which applications and what trends are emerging – and it’s difficult to obtain accurate figures.

So even if you have completed one of these before please do complete this year’s survey. You won’t have more than 15 questions to answer and none of them should take very long.

Everyone is welcome to participate but you may need a little expert knowledge to answer ALL the questions so please pass this on to your local expert if you’re unsure of anything.

All data collected remains both anonymous and confidential.

If you have additional comments or information – not covered by the survey – please feel free to email me at mick@libraryrfid.co.uk.

The survey will close on May 25th.

Thank you!

Complete the survey here.

12. February 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

The quote is from Dave Pattern who was jokingly responding to a tweet of mine on the subject of using RFID for security only. I suspect Dave’s view – in common with many others in the library world – might be that standards are really rather boring and, since they are optional, not worth worrying about too much.

Today I learned of a former client of mine that I had helped buy an RFID solution for their city a little while ago. At the time we insisted on adherence to standards and mandated ISO 28560-2 – the data standard for library use of RFID.

One of the fields used in ISO 28560 is something called the ISIL (International Standard Identifier for Libraries). Basically it’s an identifier that shows which library actually owns the item that’s been tagged. In the UK this number is supplied by the British Library’s ISIL agency other countries have similar agencies and many use their OCLC ID (also valid under the terms of ISO 28560).

Many libraries may never have occasion to use this information but since it costs nothing to add it (the space is reserved for it anyway) I am at something of a loss to understand why everyone isn’t doing this.

Particularly if they seek to emulate the national lending system that operates in Denmark for example. There, items may be freely borrowed and returned from any location in the country  - all managed by the ISIL.

Who knows? One day UK libraries might need this information too – especially if we are ever going to create something that truly resembles a national service. But some countries are already making their plans – and one has just discovered, like my client, that despite having demanded adherence to ISO 28560-2 their tags don’t carry this data.

The reason why is a bit complicated – the library in question isn’t in the UK and so didn’t use the UK data model – which mandates the ISIL code. But it raises concerns that other libraries may THINK they are complying with standards – but aren’t.

It will not be helpful to discover that you can’t easily identify your own stock if local government decides to share resources across authorities – or if national government wants to implement a national library service worthy of the name. So it may be worth checking your tags now…

And yes Dave. There are a lot of standards. But only one for RFID data. :)

18. December 2013 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

This morning Alan Wylie mentioned me in a tweet about Lambeth Council’s intention to spend up to half a million pounds on RFID equipment over the next five years using something called a “framework agreement”. It quite spoiled my morning coffee.

Let me tell you why… More »