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RFID Tagging over Time
By Gretchen Freeman, Principal Librarian/Strategist / March 29, 2017 / Categories: #AMH #RFID #Tagging

For most libraries, the biggest hurdle to implementing RFID is the daunting task of tagging the entire collection. Some fortunate libraries can afford to outsource tagging; some libraries can close branches or an entire system to tag with existing staff. But many libraries are faced with finding an affordable long-term strategy for tagging over time. What are some of the considerations?

1. Where do I start?

Tag all new acquisitions as soon as tag-writing software is available and have your pre-processing vendor begin to tag new materials. Given that new materials will be in high demand for holds and checkout, starting here saves time later.

2. In what order are branches tagged?

Any branches scheduled for remodeling or new buildings provide an ideal opportunity to tag the collections before reopening. Are some branches in greater need of labor savings with RFID self-checkout, check-in and materials handling? Find a good pilot site for RFID with staff who embraces new challenges and problem solves effectively. Start where there will be demonstrable benefits and enthusiastic role models for the branches that follow.

3. Who will do the tagging?

Libraries have tagged using paid temporaries or offering additional hours to existing staff; others enlist volunteers to supplement library staff. If you estimate a conservative tagging rate of 300 items per hour for a two-person team, calculate the time and cost to tag a collection divided by labor hours available. If feasible, close each branch for 2-3 days first to jumpstart the project with an all-staff tagging blitz to knock off audiovisual and children’s materials. Try to create a tagging strategy that will finish each collection in 3-4 months.

4. What is my patron’s experience?

Keep it simple and consistent at each branch. If barcode self-checkout is in place, use it until tagging is complete at that branch. Then install new security gates and RFID antennas, switch over the software and begin RFID self-checkout. If you have active EM security gates, they will be operating until your RFID gates are installed. For best results, tag all materials that circulate and enable self-service for holds and audiovisual materials checkout.

5. How will I handle shared materials (holds, floating collection)?

All incoming holds to an RFID branch will need to be tagged—either by the sending branch or the receiving (pick-up) branch. Preferably set up a tagging station at every branch to tag all holds sent to RFID libraries. It eases the tagging burden at receiving branches and provides good training for tagging. If receiving branches must tag incoming holds, schedule enough time for staff to manage that daily task. Floated materials must be tagged when they land at an RFID branch—or sent on to untagged branches using established redistribution methods.

Tagging over time can spread the cost and effort of tagging a collection over multiple budget years. And branches tagged first offer a good training ground for branches that follow. With planning and teamwork, tagging over time works.