Summary of ISO 28560

RFID in libraries

Authors : Leif Andresen, Paul Chartier and Tommy Schomacker (editors of ISO 28560)


Status : For information

Published by ISO/TC46/SC4/WG11 RFID in Libraries

Information and documentation, Technical interoperability

Contact :

Last update: 2 April 2012

First version: 24 March 2010



Why the need for an International Standard?


Books and other assets are not only used by the library that owns them. For example, interlibrary loans are a common way for national and regional library systems to meet user needs while minimizing duplication of relatively low-demand materials.


At the international level, it is also important to ensure that software and hardware vendors of library RFID systems can deliver standardized products. A variety of incompatible national specifications would drive up the cost of these products.


A common solution is also important to avoid libraries becoming dependent upon specific vendors. RFID tags must be available from a variety of sources. Books and CDs from different library vendors should be supplied with RFID tags already inserted.



The ISO Standard 28560 RFID in libraries


ISO 28560, RFID in libraries consist of:


All three parts of the standard were published 22 March 2011.


ISO 28560 has been developed by the working group WG11 RFID in Libraries under SC4. SC4 is the sub committee for Technical Interoperability under TC46 Technical Committee Information and Documentation – under ISO - International Organization for Standardization.



ISO 28560-1 Information and documentation -- RFID in libraries – Part 1: Data elements and general guidelines for implementation


The data model specified in Part 1 comprises 25 data elements. The only obligatory element is the primary item identifier, mandatory for items on the shelf. Experience shows that data and description of data elements are more durable than hardware, software and encoding.



Primary item identifier


Content parameter


Owner institution (ISIL)


Set information


Type of usage


Shelf location


ONIX media format


MARC media format


Supplier identifier


Order number


ILL borrowing institution (ISIL)


ILL borrowing transaction number


GS1 product identifier


Reserved for Alternative unique item identifier


Local data A


Local data B




Product identifier local


Media format (other)


Supply chain stage


Supplier invoice number


Alternative item identifier


Alternative owner institution


Subsidiary of an owner institution


Alternative ILL borrowing institution


Local data C


Reserved for future use


Reserved for future use


Reserved for future use


Reserved for future use


Reserved for future use



Application family identifier

The application family identifier (AFI) is used as a mechanism to select tags across the air interface, minimizing the extent of communication transaction time with tags that do not carry the relevant AFI code.

AFI value C2HEX has been assigned explicitly for library use.

A library may use the AFI in one of two ways.



ISO 28560-2 Information and documentation -- RFID in libraries – Part 2: Encoding based on ISO/IEC 15962


Part 2 deals with encoding rules based on ISO/IEC 15962, Information technology – Radio frequency identification (RFID) for item management – Data protocol: data encoding rules and logical memory functions, which uses an object identifier structure to identify data elements.


According to the encoding rules different optional data elements may be selected, including for RFID tags of items in the same library. The encoding rules also enable optional data to be organized on the RFID tag in any sequence. And they provide for flexible encoding of variable length and variable format data. The 15962 encoding process compacts each data element automatically in the most efficient manner, and supports selective locking of data.


For 28560-2, the data element “Content parameter” contains an index of the data elements encoded on the tag, acting as a miniature directory of the encoding.  This can be used to improve the access to specific data


Part 2 enables national or other groups of libraries to establish a data model that can include optional data elements.  The data model can be used to develop standard interfaces, but still support flexible encoding on the tag.



ISO 28560-3 Information and documentation -- RFID in libraries – Part 3: Fixed length encoding


Part 3 specifies how a subset of data elements is encoded in a basic block, and how the other data elements are encoded into extension blocks on the RFID tag


For 28560-3 data element “Content parameter” contains a version number of the standard.


Part 3 do not specify a strategy for locking.


Part 3 enables national or other groups of libraries to establish a data model that can include optional data elements.  The data model can be used to develop standard interfaces, but still support flexible encoding on the tag.


DS/INF 163 ("The Danish Data Model") corresponds to ISO 28560-1 and ISO 28560-3. The aim has been that an RFID-tag encoded according to DS/INF 163 also conforms to ISO 28560. But in the editing of ISO 28560 it has been necessary to make some clarifications and some minor changes, see: ISO 28560 and DS/INF 163



General for all three parts


Both Part 2 and Part 3 use the 13.56 MHz (megahertz) frequency, which to date has been most common for RFID applications in libraries. Besides the need to support the large installed base of High Frequency (13.56 MHz) systems, there are still technical advantages of using HF instead of UHF systems in libraries. This is under discussion and can change. This issue is discussed on the Q & A pages – and both Q and A will may be changed in the future.


The standard does not specify communication between RFID readers and an integrated library system (ILS). This is currently managed by the US National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Circulation Interchange Protocol Z39.83 (NCIP) and the standard interface protocol (version 2) SIP2. Some RFID systems have developed own integration software for interaction with ILS and Book Industry Communication (UK) have proposed a new library interoperability framework – known as BLCF.


There are also new developments initiatives that have started; that will be addressed on these pages.


National and regional profiling may restrict use of some data elements and make others mandatory. Managing privacy is also part of profiling.

WG 11 has established a Website: Relevant up-to-date information will be provided on this website.



Service improvements


A particular benefit of using RFID for library circulation is the ability to handle composite materials. Examples might be a multivolume book, a box set with three CDs, or an audio book with 15 tapes. In these cases a data element on the tag keeps track on the number of the current item and the total the number of items in the entire set. By using this information, the check-out and check-in functions can give a warning when items are missing. This function solves a major problem of barcode-based self-service systems.


RFID in libraries can provide functionality beyond circulation. Some libraries use RFID for stock control by scanning shelves and comparing the results with the library’s database to find “lost” or miss-shelved items, as well as take inventory.

RFID may also support the acquisition process. Data on the incoming book tag might identify itself to the library acquisition module, and provide a link to the supplier and order number. ISO 28560 includes data elements for this information.


Another potential use for RFID enables users to “show” a book to a screen in the library to retrieve reviews and user comments.



Guidance documents


The WG11 RRID in Libraries continues to publish documents to support the use of the standards. These documents are published at:  


Documents actual April 2012: