“The wonderful thing about standards is there’s so many of them…”

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. 🙂

Are Councils using framework agreements to destroy the UK Public Library Service? – You decide.

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… » Read more

ISO 28560 and the ISIL – what you need to know

I recently published data about this year’s RFID usage survey which suggested that the popularity of ISO 28560 and the UK data model has increased significantly over the past year.

However it seems that not everyone knows quite what is required to actually deploy the standard since those nice people at BIC have recently received a plea from the British Library for their help in persuading librarians to give them more warning about requesting their library code from their ISIL agency. They mentioned this to me and I thought it might be helpful to explain what is is and how to get one on the blog.

The ISIL (International Standard Identifier for Libraries) forms one of three mandatory elements in the UK data model (more information here) and may, in the case of UK libraries, be either the BL ISIL code – available from the agency – or an OCLC code – if the library is registered with that organisation. Its purpose is to ensure that an item can be traced to its owning organisation – for ILL, consortia working or resource sharing for example.

If you plan to use ISO 28560-2 and the UK data model please ensure that you obtain the ISIL code before installation day or you may risk delaying your project.


NFC and library RFID tags

It’s been an interesting week for RFID users.

It began with a question from Connie Moss (from I think Garland City, TX) on the US Library RFID list about buying tags. She’d been advised to buy tags with an SLIX chip on board and wanted to know how to tell what chips she had already.

A seemingly innocent question, but it proved to be the trigger for one of the most prolonged and wide-ranging discussions on the lists in a long time.

The initial response to Connie’s question came from my colleague Lori Ayre of the Galecia Group who advised Connie to keep using the chips she had as there weren’t sufficiently compelling reasons to switch to SLIX – and besides using some of its features might mean abandoning the NISO recommended RFID tag standard – ISO 28560.

This prompted a lengthy response from the other side of the world by Australian Alan Butters of Sybis who pointed out that there were issues surrounding the use of smartphones equipped with NFC that might make the use of SLIX, or possibly even SLIX-S chips a good idea.

At this point I copied these threads to the UK Library RFID list as the whole issue of NFC is one I’ve been talking about for some time now and I thought the discussion would be of interest to UK librarians. I have no intention of rehearsing all the arguments that followed on the blog. If you want the detail you can find them all here.

Suffice it to say that by the end of the week the debate had moved on to encompass the relationship between RFID and LMS suppliers, the nature of library security in general, the relative merits of an Open Source approach vs the narrow self-interest of the commercial market – with contributions from commercial suppliers and concerned librarians alike.

I began to find it all a bit confusing myself and thought that others might as well – so I thought it might be helpful to make a few simple points of my own – in the hope of not confusing things further.

The initial question concerned security – specifically RFID security. By one of those quirks of technological development the library RFID market is facing a challenge not of its own making. The term “RFID” covers a wide range of products, devices and frequencies. Almost all UK (and most US and Australian) libraries use the same frequency tags in their stock – 13.56MHz. By a wonderful irony this is the same frequency used by yet another kind of RFID – Near Field Communication (NFC).

Now NFC, like other RF devices such as the readers available with Arduino, has been around for a while and has always posed something of a threat to library users. Anyone equipped with the right device has been able to read and write data to library tags operating at the same frequency and using a compatible air interface for some time now but – outside of the labs, experiments at home and events like Chips and Mash (in Huddersfield in 2010) – no-one has seen fit to use this capability  to wreak havoc in a library.

What has changed is the decision by many smartphone manufacturers to include NFC in their devices. Put very simply that means anyone with the right kind of smartphone or tablet could, using a free “app” read and write data to library tags.

The initial discussion centred on the likelihood of this happening – and what steps might be taken to prevent it. There are, as both Alan and Paul Chartier point out in the list exchanges, a number of ways in which individual libraries may be able to protect themselves against theft or scrambled data but without the co-operation of LMS suppliers most of the solutions bring problems of their own. Locking down the tags may seem like a good idea but it’s a “knee-jerk” response that will limit both the development of the technology and interoperability between applications and library services.

RFID suppliers are aware of the problem – but it is not one of their making and possibly not one they can elegantly solve. There is a clear and pressing need to find a solution which, in my opinion, will require rather more engagement from the LMS market – whether Open Source or proprietary – than we have seen up to now. One of the solutions originally put forward by Alan in 2012 would be to use the tag UID in conjunction with the LMS database – and idea reworked by Eric Grosshans of ISNG in this week’s discussion.

The debate looks like continuing for a while yet. I’m going to be watching with interest. In the meantime I’ve begun approaching suppliers with a view to brokering a meeting to develop a common approach to finding a solution. Early responses are encouraging.

If you have a specific question about any aspect of this issue please feel free to contact me – or post on the blog.

(Not the) RFID in Libraries Conference 2014

For some time now I’ve been concerned about the relatively narrow focus of the London Library RFID conference. To be honest was never sure why RFID was seen as something ‘separate’ from other aspects of library automation. I have even wondered at times if the existence of the conference might in part be responsible for the disconnect between library management systems and RFID based solutions that appears to exist in some librarians’ minds.

In reality RFID applications generally don’t exist in isolation but are inextricably linked with the LMS/ILS – not always in as integrated a manner as we might hope – but reliant to a very large degree on each other.

So why have different events for management systems and RFID solutions?

Then there are the new mobile technologies – NFC equipped smartphones and tablets bring new apps and location-aware services into our increasingly mobile lives. How do they fit into the bigger automation picture?

So when Andy Walsh and I followed the R2 conference on Twitter last year we made contact about the possibility of running something similar in the UK. Andy – being a far more industrious person than I put in a prodigious amount of effort into venues and programmes and announced that a new event – i2c2 – would take place in Manchester from 6th-7th March 2014.

I’m delighted to have been asked to help promote the event – and to try and persuade the RFID industry to do likewise. The aim of the conference is to encourage innovation, inspiration and creativity in libraries. My hope is that this won’t just apply to the many librarians that will be attending – but also to the suppliers that will hopefully help to make it possible. Closer contact between technology suppliers is as essential as between them and their clients.

So this year there will not be a CILIP RFID in Libraries conference in November. Save your pennies to get to Manchester in March 2014 instead!

Imagining the Future – A Guest Post from Gary Green

Gary-GreenAt CILIP’s 2012 RFID in Libraries Conference I spoke about creative uses of RFID, focusing on the world outside the library sector, but linking back to possible opportunities for development within libraries. The following post is a write-up of my presentation. To give it some context, I came across these interesting RFID examples whilst keeping an eye on developments in RFID use in libraries for my library service. I wondered how they could be translated into library use and how they could benefit libraries and library users. The main focus of many library RFID systems is still stock circulation and stock management, but the following examples hope to move beyond that scope – into the areas of collecting and sharing information.

You should bear in mind that this is blue-sky thinking and doesn’t take into consideration RFID issues around data privacy or data standards. » Read more

Library RFID, Best Practice and the Society of Chief Librarians

It’s been more than three years now…

On the 26th October 2009 the RFID Alliance – a loose affiliation of the UK’s leading RFID suppliers at the time – published their ground-breaking statement on data standards. For over a year RFID, stock and LMS suppliers, librarians, and representatives from CILIP, the BL and BSI had worked together through their common membership of BIC (and under my chairmanship) to agree a common data standard for UK libraries. » Read more

1 3 4 5 6 7 16