Chapter 6: RFID in Libraries

Deborah Caldwell-Stone


The implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies by U.S. libraries is noteworthy for the controversy that resulted when organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU protested libraries’ adoption of RFID and argued that the privacy risks posed by RFID were so great that libraries should avoid adopting RFID technology altogether. Nearly a decade later, RFID is an accepted technology in libraries, thanks in part to the profession's adoption of best practices that minimize the technology's potential to erode library users’ privacy.

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has since published a document,
RFID in U.S. Libraries
, that contains recommended practices intended to facilitate the use of radio frequency identification in library applications. Though the document includes privacy within its charge, it does not include or discuss the best practices adopted by the library profession.

This article reviews the controversy surrounding the use of RFID technologies in U.S. libraries and the steps taken by the library profession to resolve those issues. It evaluates and discusses the privacy recommendations made by NISO's RFID Working Group on RFID in U.S. Libraries.

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