San Francisco Public Library Loses Ground on RFID

A plan to install radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in materials at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) has been rejected 4-1 by the Budget Committee of the Board of Supervisors. San Francisco and Berkeley have been the epicenter of citizen activism about library RFID, as critics are concerned the system could compromise privacy--a position disputed by library vendors and librarians with RFID systems in place.

In January, an effort to launch RFID at SFPL with a $300,000 expenditure was postponed, owing to a budget shortfall. Instead, the library planned a larger project, at $680,000, but the money, the supervisors said, should be used for other things. Activists claimed victory.

Library spokeswoman Marcia Schneider noted that "SFPL's budget fared very, very well at the [board]. It was approved at approximately $62 million, including about a five percent increase...more money for books and materials" and other initiatives.

Schneider acknowledged that "the board was not comfortable funding RFID during this budget round" but said the board demonstrated "enormous goodwill...during a difficult budget year." She said that the library would "explore all technologies, including RFID, as future options for our system."