Frequently Asked Questions: RFID Tagging

  1. How long will it take to attach RFID tags to our collection?
  2. How many books can one person tag in an hour?
  3. How is an RFID tag encoded?
  4. Is there an RFID communication standard?
  5. What conditions will cause problems with an RFID tag?
  1. How long will it take to attach RFID tags to our collection?

    The time required to tag a collection hinges on two factors:
    • How many items need to be tagged?
      (Will audio-visual resources be tagged? Serials? Reference? Special collections?)
    • How many people are tagging?
      (For how many hours per day?)
    Of course, adding more people will get the job done sooner. But then you have to plan on additional workstations, which adds to the expense. So it’s always a bit of a balancing act.

    Backstage projects have ranged from small collections with a handful of people for just a few weeks to multiple teams across dozens of branches, tagging more than a million items over the course of almost a year.

    We’d be happy to take a look at your project and provide you with an estimate of the time and resources that your collection will require.

  2. How many books can one person tag in an hour?

    You’ll find a wide range of claims as to how quickly books can be tagged. In many instances, the numbers are based on short-term assessments in an ideal operating environment.

    In the real world, conditions are seldom perfect. Audio-visual resources might take longer than books. Some sections of your stacks may be dusty enough that the books require a bit of cleaning to make sure that tags stick. Time will be spent on non-production activities like moving equipment across town to another branch. And a tagging sprint of one hour isn’t the same thing as encoding labels for eight hours a day.

    Because Backstage has placed over five million RFID tags in the past five years, our productivity estimates are based on experience. Our calculations run across the entire project, from start-up to wrap-up, and include all types of materials, scheduled interruptions, and dealing with the many minor issues that can slow the process down.

    In our experience, a tagging technician should be able to comfortably tag, on average, 150 items in an hour. Factoring in mealtimes and other breaks, that turns into just over 1,000 items per day, 5,000 each week, and 20,000 in a month.

  3. How is an RFID tag encoded?

    RFID tags are encoded using a mobile, self-contained workstation. Backstage encoding stations use software licensed from your RFID vendor to ensure compatibility with your new system. The station includes a notebook PC, an RFID antenna receptor, a barcode scanner, and a tag dispenser.

    To process an item, the existing barcode is scanned, and an RFID tag is placed on the receptor, which encodes the barcode number on the RFID tag’s memory chip. The tag is then strategically placed on the item. The technician returns the item to the shelf and moves along to the next item.

    Our project manager runs regular quality checks, to make sure all items have been tagged, with the labels placed appropriately and encoded correctly.

  4. Is there an RFID communication standard?

    ISO 28560 is the library RFID communication standard. The main thrust of the standard is to enable a common data format to allow for a level of interoperability between RFID solutions from different vendors. The standard has also incorporated a set of data elements — such as MARC media format or usage and set information (number of parts) — that can be used to further identify the item.

    For most libraries, this means being able to read the tags on items from another library in your network or consortium.

  5. What conditions will cause problems with an RFID tag?

    Metal is the enemy of RFID tag communication. Metal content in DVDs, CDs, media cases, and some book covers can interfere with the signal between a tag and an RFID reader. RFID waves pass through wood, paper, and plastic. But items with metal may not check in or out properly, and security gates may not detect these items when they pass through.

    The most popular solution for books is to replace foil covers with paper covers. For audio-visual media, libraries often opt to tag only the plastic case.