February 17, 2018

SFPL Vote on RFID May Come April 1

By LJ Staff

After holding an informational session March 4 regarding the possibility of implementing RFID (radio frequency identification) tags in materials at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), the city’s Library Commission will consider and possibly approve the plan at a meeting April 1. The decision will come as the library faces a considerable amount of criticism about the plan from local activists. “If this was a real forum, it would have taken place before the library’s budget was forwarded to the mayor,” Doug Loranger, founder of the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union, told the San Francisco Bay Guardian. City Library Susan Hildreth told the newspaper that the library had to meet a city timetable, and the library commission could stall the plan to spend $580,182 to install RFID in the Main Library and one branch. A full system implementation could cost more than $3 million. At the forum, Hildreth noted that hundreds of libraries have adopted the systems. “We would not do something that would compromise our users’ privacy,” she said.

“I don’t believe there are library people rubbing their hands waiting to use this technology to spy on patrons,” Katherine Albrecht, director of a consumer privacy group called CASPIAN, said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “But if they create the RFID infrastructure in these books, I think someone else will come along and co-opt that information.” SFPL spokeswoman Marcia Schneider told LJ that, because the full impact of cuts in the state budget, “Our available revenue for next year is a moving target; therefore, how much money we request is still not known.” The library will present some phased costs on April 1. “We are considering the possibility of one branch library to start with as opposed to the Main Library, and staff is costing this out.” The library is also working on a cost-benefit analysis.