RFID, books and Library 2.0 – The missing link?

One thing I have missed in the Library 2.0 discussion is the link between the physical library and the digital dimension. Yes, we use our OPAC to show what items we have, and Casey Bissons WordPress OPAC shows a possible future for the OPAC, but the actual link between the physical book and the catalog record is not a very strong one. Now I wonder if RFID might not be the missing link.

Consider the following points:
1. In the future most consumer goods will have RFID tags.

2. Consumers will want to have information about the goods and some smart guy starts a database with consumer information. Just by "bipping" a RFID tag a person gets information about the item she is considering purchasing. She can herself choose which database she wants to get the information about the item from.
3. The demand for RFID readers with net capability increases and rapidly every PDA and mobile phone will have one.

4. Consumers will start writing reviews on all types of goods, canned food, sneakers, baby-toys etc. and build consumer networks, exactly like we see on Amazon and other Web 2.0 instances right now.

What are some of the implications of these points?

1. RFID readers integrated into everyday computing will give people access to information about an item without inputting information manually.

2. As libraries are increasing the use of RFID as identifiers in books this gives us some possible opportunities.

3. Identifying and getting information about an physical item in the library will be extremely easy for the average user. (today you usually go from virtual reference to the physical item, not the other way)
4. By allowing comments in the catalog and letting users with RFID readers comment directly from their PDAs and mobile phones our databases becomes far more valuable to our communities.

5. Harvesting comments from other libraries can give a really interesting insight into an item as part of the "library experience".

6. The library will of course lend out RFID capable PDAs to those who does not have them.

This is a pretty far out idea, and completely dependent on the proliferation of RFID readers into common devices, but not, do I feel, impossible. And it is a possible solution to the problem of linking data and physical item. And that link is, in my opinion, vital to the future of libraries.


Update March 27 – NOKIA have developed mobile phones with RFID readers for the Duch health service provider Allevo to use in home based services. The RFID chip in a home will give a care-giver access to information relevant to the person beeing served without carrying the information, or filling out forms.  

I'm a norwegian librarian.

Posted in Books, OPAC, RFID

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March 2006
The Librarian

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