26. February 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized

Security has caused concern for a number of those replying to this years’ survey of RFID use in UK libraries, with CD and DVD management being singled out by many as causing the greatest difficulty.

The problems do appear to slowly being resolved. In the early days of library RFID greater emphasis seems to have been given to its role in enabling self service than security and the earliest adopters used very small tags that were attached to the centre of the discs – often called “doughnut” or “polo” tags. These worked fine at the issue stations but the aerials on such small tags could readily pass undetected through security gates.

Another difficulty is the “masking” effect that tags have on one another. Unfortunately CD jewel cases are often designed in such a way as to effectively overlay the discs inside very accurately! Since tags in close proximity can block the signals from scanners this prevents some, or often all, of the items from being read – even in the highly focused read field on a self service device.

There have been many responses to the problem from libraries and suppliers alike. Special packaging has helped prevent the “masking effect” but libraries using the small tags found this didn’t solve the security problem.

CD tags have gradually grown in size (now to the full size of the disc), larger book tags added to cases (sometimes hidden), and lockable boxes introduced to deal with the security issues. Libraries have removed discs from self-service altogether. Some have abandoned security altogether, seeing the benefits obtaining from using RFID in other operations as adequate compensation for losses.

The survey results published elsewhere on this blog give some idea of the various means by which libraries have tried to overcome the challenges but the additional comments that many respondents made perhaps offer a better understanding of how well they are being met:

  • We use EM tags for CD/DVDs.
  • Some “reference only” materials are EM security only because of the cost of tags, hence dual security gates.
  • We don’t use RFID yet on A/V material.
  • We check each safer before relocking to ensure all discs are present.
  • All CD’s had to be re boxed. CD’s and DVD’s had RFID labels and red bar locking tags. Borrowers de-tag the items themselves after issuing at self service.
  • We use “Red Tag” DVD and CD cases.
  • Tags are added to CD/DVD cover sheets.
  • “Safers” are tagged with book tags.
  • Pre-recorded DVDs are kept behind the counter.
  • CD/DVDs are stored out of cases. This was an inherited solution that we did not have the investment to change and was not a priority.
  • CDs: just polo tags. DVDs: case plus one DVD
  • On multiple packages we use one book tag on the case, and tag only one disc using the ‘set’ option.
  • Mixture of many approaches – none are ideal.
  • We have a mix of open access and security cased CD/DVDs.  Security cased items are issued by staff.
  • We leave CDs in cases. The DVDs are removed from the cases. Customers issue the cases then come to staff for the discs.
  • Using combined security release/desensitising mechanism
  • Discs are kept completely separately from the cases – NOT Self Service
  • Only DVD holding branches live so far and in these, DVDs are kept at the counter with just the boxes on display.
  • We operate a “collect at counter” system for AV. We felt it was not worth the investment in other security methods as income raised from AV is diminishing and ROI would not be achieved.
  • We attempted to implement CD/DVDs as self service, but in a number of instances the discs were being thrown around outside. Trading standards got involved and discs are now stored behind the counter and issued as before.
  • We are trialling this and if losses are too great will look to use “safers”.
  • No capacity yet for kiosk to handle money, so if DVD is taken to a self-service terminal, it gives a message to ask customer to take it to counter. Will review once Cash Management module enabled on LMS (on order).
  • We have tagged our DVDs, however the tags do not work therefore the items are on closed access.
  • We have EM security on discs, but do not yet have an RFID solution.
  • Customers issue/ pay for their items at the kiosk and then staff unlock the security case at the staff desk.
  • Customers collect DVDs from staffed points following issue. This ensures that we check age restrictions are being adhered to. We haven’t found an electronic solution that can do this
  • We tag the DVD box only.
  • Cases are tagged and sealed – still reviewing this!
  • “Safer” cases relatively easy to open – items get stolen regularly.  Tags too big and easy to remove
  • We tag the locked cases to ensure the alarm goes off if they are not issued properly
  • RFID security used in Main Library Short Loan
  • We are prioritising maximum student access over security – and will be very interested in the answers you get to these questions.
  • We do not tag off-air recordings on DVD. In the past we had an archive of them on a hard drive and it is cheaper to run off a new copy than tag them all. We now rely on Box of Broadcasts instead. Some purchased items are kept behind the issue desk, some are in keeper cases.
  • We tried the tag directly on the DVD but found they could not be read correctly and gave up!
  • Frankly this is a mess.  It has proved unreliable and we’ve changed what we do.
  • We have tagged DVD cases with book tags as very small AV stock at this site
  • Where multiple disks are in a case we either split the case into multiple items or only tag the case
  • CDs and DVDs are currently in cabinets at Lending Services and users have to ask for them.  This will change when our refurbishment programme is complete
  • Normal book tags on the covers. However at Central library they are not available for self issue because the CD’s and DVD’s are kept separate from the boxes.


  1. The initial RFID system implemented at the Salt Lake County Library Services was based on the use of conventional hub tags applied to the center of disks, combined with separate booster antennas. The results were not particularly good.

    On the particular issue of security, preventing theft of CDs and DVDs is a significant challenge for all public libraries. The SLCLS was operating five different types of security measures: magnetic strip security markers, radio frequency targets, security cases, closed stack shelving and a combination of RFID and magnetic strips. Each of the methods had its own weaknesses, costs, or degree of inconvenience to the public and staff

    Rigorous testing was the key to identifying a more effective approach to tagging CDs and DVDs. In this respect, SLCLS is fortunate to have an environment that enables RFID tags to be tested in three different applications: on antenna pads at self checkout, on automated sorting equipment, and at security gates. This allowed tags to be tested during static reads, during in-motion reads on a conveyor belt, and while disks are held by customers as they pass through a security gate field.
    The testing programe involved comparison between conventional hub tags from a range of vendors, as well as FCI Smartag’s X-Range product. The X-Range design differs markedly from hub or donut tags, in that a single substrate is applied across the whole of one side of the disc. There is no need for a separate booster to be added.
    The unique design of X-Range places the antenna on the outside ring of the tag, versus the inside ring or center of the DVD or CD. This solution removes issues Library’s have with old fashion donut style RFID labels that are faced with two limiting design issues: short read ranges due to a small antenna, and metal-to-core A/V items that negatively impacts readability.

    In all three applications – self checkout, sorting and security – the X-Range performed better than hub tag alternatives. This was true even with ‘metal to the core’ disks. While hub tags per¬formed inconsistently at security gates, CDs and DVDs fitted with the X-Range tag were read nine times out of ten, and the read range of the tags was significantly greater. Furthermore, the benefits extended beyond the range and reliability of read/write performance

  2. Thanks so much for this post and the commentor. We are trying to set up dvds and cases with 2 tags here at the Uni of Melbourne, to reduce manual handling. COuldn’t work out what was going wrong and your post has really helped.

    Our process is posted at http://restructuregirl.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/rfid-and-dvds-a-work-in-progress/

  3. Pingback: RFID and DVDs – a work in progress « Creative Circ

  4. Pingback: SIP 3.0, Web Services and the future of RFID in Libraries – RFID – Changing libraries for good?

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