New Self-check Out Machines - RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

What is RFID?

  • RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification
  • RFID tags replace barcodes to identify and track items in the Halifax Public Libraries (HPL) collection
  • RFID is a new technology for HPL, but it is a proven technology that has already been implemented in many libraries in Canada and around the world

How does it work?

  • RFID produces a harmless low-level radio frequency that is detected by a reader (HPL self-check machines)
  • While barcode items have to line up with a scanner and be checked out individually, RFID can scan multiple items simultaneously

How private are RFID tags?

  • No personally identifiable information is on the RFID tag, only the item is identified, not the customer
  • HPL's RFID tags do not generate a signal on their own. They are only active in the presence of a reader, so nobody will be able to tell what books a customer is carrying
  • Nobody can track a customer's movement using the library's RFID tags because the read range is only 20-30 cm, and cannot be detected outside of that area
  • BiblioTech article: Patron Privacy and RFIDs in Libraries

Are RFID systems safe?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and many other organizations have conducted extensive research on the potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. They've concluded that there's no evidence of any adverse effects to general health
  • Galecia Group article adressing health concerns: Library RFID and Health Concerns


  • Improves customer service and increases customer satisfaction
  • Results in a faster system with quicker check-out times
  • Simplified customer check out/check in with self-check machines
  • Items re-enter circulation quicker, which means shorter waiting periods for borrowing
  • Staff members are freed to help patrons with their specific needs - staff will not be reduced, but given more fulfilling tasks
  • Improves inventory control/accuracy
  • Items are easier to find, holds arrive quicker, and items are re-shelved faster

When is it happening?

  • Materials conversion from barcode to RFID tags began at HPL in April 2013
  • On Tuesday, December 3, 2013, Alderney Gate Branch will be the first among HPL's branches to switch to the new technology
  • From there, two or more branches will switch to the new technology each day

What will happen at each branch?

  • Removal of the old self-check machines and installation of the new machines, along with replacement of the exit sensor gates, will take three to six hours per branch
  • We will make every effort to perform the majority of removal/installation during closed library hours to avoid excessive disruption

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