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Berkeley Spends $650,000 on Book Tracking

Berkeley Public Library is implementing an RFID tracking system that will see all half-million of its books tagged before going live in June.
Feb 08, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 8, 2005—The Berkeley Public Library of Berkeley, California, is implementing an RFID tracking system that will see all half-million of its books tagged before going live in June. The system costs $650,000 and is being provided by Checkpoint Systems. Library administrators aim for it to allow self-checkout, which will free up library employees to devote more time to helping patrons. Additionally, they expect the system to substantially reduce repetitive motion injuries of library staff, a non-trivial problem that has cost the library $2 million over the last five years.

Some members of the community are not happy with the new system. They argue that the library's already precarious financial situation makes such a large technology investment very risky. Then there are the standard privacy concerns. The new RFID system could make individuals' book checkout history available to hackers and government snoops, opponents argue. This is curious logic given the fact that such information is already being collected and stored. Furthermore, self-checkout will enable patrons to take home books without library employee involvement, a slight change that actually increases privacy.

Regardless, we'll watch this story closely. Given Berkeley's far left-leaning reputation, the community's reaction to an RFID library will probably be more extreme than almost anywhere else. Thus, it might be considered a "worst case" test bed of public reaction to library RFID systems from which much can be learned.

More on the story from Alameda Times-Star
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