After reading Making RFID Work, how can Enterprise Architecture help HKU in the IT innovation adopti


After reading Making RFID Work, how can Enterprise Architecture help HKU in the IT innovation adoption process of RFID? Expansion to their branches? future IT projects?3 pages double spaced. APA format and should include in-text citation

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In October 2008, the University of Hong Kong’s Libraries (“HKU Libraries”) successfully
launched an initiative to introduce radio-frequency identification (“RFID”) into its Main
Library. Through the RFID initiative, HKU Libraries intended to pursue effective
management of the public and private resources bestowed upon the institution. In 2008, the
libraries served a total of 102,676 registered borrowers and had collected a total of 2.65
million items. Managing such a large number of resources was always an issue for HKU
Libraries’ management team. Deputy Librarian Peter Sidorko saw the promise of RFID
technology in helping him to serve the libraries and their users better. After reviewing the
possible use of RFID, HKU Libraries chose the Main Library, one of seven branches, as the
first location for launching the RFID initiative.
The 2008 launch was the first phase in the RFID implementation scheme. Although initial
RFID usage information had not been compiled, Sidorko had to decide what the next step of
this initiative should be. What should Sidorko consider when implementing future RFID
Establishment of HKU Libraries
HKU Libraries was established in 1912 to provide research support, collections and services
to members of the university. In 1961, when the university celebrated its golden jubilee with
more than 2,000 students, it moved the libraries from Main Building to Main Library building
(renamed the Old Wing in 1991 and renovated in 1993).1 In 1991, the libraries added a major
extension on the site of the old Students’ Union building and named the extension the New
Wing. From then onward, HKU Libraries occupied the Old Wing and New Wing to house its
collection of materials pertaining to the arts, humanities, architecture, social sciences, and
science and technology, and to provide vital support to teaching and research at the university.
The Main Library was located at the centre of the Main Campus, which covered about 16
hectares of land on verdant hillside above the intersection of Bonham Road and Pokfulam
For details, see The University of Hong Kong’s Libraries’ website:
Boby Shiu prepared this case under the supervision of Dr Benjamin Yen for class discussion. This case is not intended to show
effective or ineffective handling of decision or business processes.
© 2009 by The Asia Case Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (including the
internet)—without the permission of The University of Hong Kong.
Ref. 09/451C
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Making RFID Work: The World’s Largest University Library RFID Implementation
Road in the Western District of the island [see Exhibit 1]. The Main Library building housed
its collections and facilities on six floors [see Exhibit 2]. Books and serials were the primary
collections shelved on the first through fourth floors, classified according to the Dewey
Decimal Classification Scheme (“DDC”). Books were kept in the New Wing, while serials
were kept in the Old Wing. Less-used books were not displayed on shelves, but kept at the
ground floor compact storage or the remote Hing Wai storage facility to maximise space
utilisation in the building. Loan and return of materials were serviced at the circulation
counter on the ground floor. The Main Library was open 92 hours in the semester [see
Exhibit 3].
In addition to the Main Library, HKU Libraries managed six other library branches: the
Dental Library, the Education Library, the Fung Ping Shan Library, the Lui Che Woo Law
Library, the Music Library and the Yu Chun Keung Medical Library.2 The Fung Ping Shan
Library was the university’s Chinese-language library and was located on the fourth through
sixth floors of the Main Library building, while the other library branches were distributed
throughout the Main Campus, Sassoon Road Campus and the Dental Hospital.
Issues Facing HKU Libraries
Throughout its existence, HKU Libraries had focused on expanding its information, serving
its users and empowering its staff. However, to continue its success and maintain its role,
HKU Libraries had faced a number of issues.
Expanding Information
In the HKU Libraries, the collection development department spent HK$73 million3 (around
41% of total expenditure) on book acquisitions in 2007–2008.4 The total number of volumes
at HKU Libraries grew from 2,170,471 in 2003 to 2,645,696 in 2008, with an average annual
growth of 7.38% [see Exhibit 4b]. 5 The Main Library contained the highest number of
volumes, which increased from 1,075,491 in 2003 to 1,277,982 in 2008, accounting for about
48.30% of total volumes in 2008. In 2008, HKU Libraries distributed its acquisitions dollars
into three main categories: journals (16.58%), books (21.70%) and electronic resources
(56.74%), with other categories such as audio-visual materials (4.98%) making up the
remainder [see Exhibit 4a]. Despite increasing acquisition of electronic resources, the
libraries continued to add 81,134 print volumes in 2008.6
To manage such a large collection, HKU Libraries had been using conventional methods of
library management. The cataloguing department continued improving the accessibility of the
collection through the regular job of cataloguing the print, non-print and electronic titles,
converting call numbers to DDC, and digitalising early works and archived materials. The
circulation department collected book circulation data to identify less-used books, which were
moved off-site to the Hing Wai storage facility. The reference department assisted users with
reference and research inquiries, and aimed to help users find pertinent information efficiently
and effectively. Through performing these tasks, HKU Libraries hoped to minimise the effort
in managing such a large collection.
There were times, however, when books were not found on the shelves according to their call
numbers. One possible cause was that the shelves were overcrowded and students just put the
For details, see HKU Libraries’ website:
Since the mid-1980s, the value of the Hong Kong dollar had been pegged at HK$7.8 = US$1 through the currency board system.
However, the market rate exchange to the US dollar fluctuated marginally.
The University of Hong Kong (2008) “Financial Report”.
HKU Libraries (2003) “Annual Report”; HKU Libraries (2008) “Annual Report”.
HKU Libraries (2008) “Annual Report”.
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Making RFID Work: The World’s Largest University Library RFID Implementation
books anywhere they liked. Another possible cause was that students who did not want others
to use certain books would hide the books for their own use. It was also possible that the
books had been stolen. Due to the large collection of books being managed, HKU Libraries
did not know whether or not the books were still inside the libraries and did not know the
number of missing books. In addition, it would be difficult to do a due diligence and
inventory check on the collections, which had never been done before.
Serving Users
HKU Libraries served a large user base from the university and its extension arm, the School
of Professional and Continuing Education (“SPACE”). In 2008, HKU staff, students and
alumni (including SPACE staff and students) made up the libraries’ 102,676 registered users.7
In the same year, a total of 1,096,302 items were checked out, meaning each registered user
checked out an average of 10.68 items, and during peak periods, a maximum of 10,759 items
could be checked out per day.8 Existing HKU students contributed 64.65% of total checkouts,
amounting to 708,759 checkouts. This number did not count checkouts from the interlibrary
loans department, which helped users to procure materials that were unavailable at HKU
Libraries. In 2008, HKU Libraries completed 87,938 interlibrary loan transactions with other
libraries, both local and overseas.
To serve such a large number of users, the access services department was responsible for the
borrowing service provided at the circulation counter. At the counter, users could borrow
books on open stacks with valid borrowers’ cards, and the staff would complete the check out
procedure. Checked-out books could be returned to the counter or through book-drops.
According to Sidorko, the counter was full during peak periods:
The libraries have terrible checkout queues, really long lines of 15 to 20
The libraries have like four or five people serving, but when it is really busy
time, at certain time of the day, the desks are just really full.
– Peter Sidorko, Deputy Librarian9
During peak periods (ie, around lunchtime and in the late afternoon between 4pm and
6:30pm), long queues of 15 to 20 users waited in front of the counter. Although the counter
seated two staff on average and could seat up to five staff serving users simultaneously, the
counter was too full to avoid long queues during peak periods. This customer service issue
remained a main issue for the libraries.
Empowering Staff
The libraries had two classes of staff: professional staff and support staff. All professional
staff had a master’s degree in library management, and all had been trained overseas, although
relevant courses had recently become available in Hong Kong. Support staff, however, were
not required to hold relevant degrees. In 2008, about 35 professional staff and 219 full-time
support staff worked in the libraries [see Exhibit 4c]. The ratio of professional staff to
support staff was around 1:6.34, one of the worst ratios among academic libraries, compared
with a benchmark of between 1:1 and 1:2 revealed in a survey.10
The University of Hong Kong’s Libraries (2008) “Annual Report”.
HKU Libraries (2006) “Invitation to Demonstrate a Library RFID System Application to The University of Hong Kong’s
Company interview on 27 November 2008.
Applegate, R. (2007) “Charting Academic Library Staffing: Data from National Surveys”, College and Research Libraries, 68
(1), pp. 59–68.
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Making RFID Work: The World’s Largest University Library RFID Implementation
In order to reduce this ratio, HKU Libraries did not want to lose its existing librarians and
wanted to hire new professional staff. Meanwhile, the libraries reduced the number of support
staff following the guide of natural attrition, which included retirement and turnover among
full-time staff, and contract expiration for contract staff. From the natural attrition rate, the
libraries calculated the target number of support staff and projected the target losses to
achieve a reduced ratio. Despite the fact that the losses were planned, decreased support staff
would impact normal operations. As a result, HKU Libraries looked for new solutions to
increase productivity to accommodate staff losses.
Radio Frequency Identification
RFID Technologies
In 2000, 3M introduced its Digital Identification (“DID”) system to the Hong Kong market.11
The DID system helped streamline the handling, processing and security of library materials
through RFID and 3M’s proprietary security technology Tattle-Tape. This drew the attention
of university libraries in Hong Kong.
RFID was an automatic identification method using radio frequency to identify objects on
which small RFID tags had been attached.12 Each RFID tag stored a unique identification
number in a chip that was read by a device called the RFID reader. RFID tags were of two
types: active tags and passive tags. Active tags contained embedded batteries, providing not
just the identification number but also possible information on the tagged objects. Passive
tags were activated and powered by the radio energies from a specialised reader, and provided
only the identification number of the object.13
RFID tags were made up of three parts [see Exhibit 5]:
• A computer chip held information about the object to which the tag was attached.
• An antenna transmitted information to a reader (eg, handheld device, warehouse portal or
retail shelf) using radio waves.
• Packaging encased the computer chip and antenna so that the tag could be attached to the
RFID tags needed to work with an antenna and a reader, which were attached to a computer,
in order to pass the RFID data to the enterprise and business application.14
One use of RFID was to tag people such as smart cards, which were ID cards, passports, debit
cards, credit cards or library cards that contained the chips for identification purposes. RFID
was also used to tag assets such as clothes, books, computers, baggage, animals, cars and
In libraries, RFID was used to tag library cards and books for tracking books, but this
application was quite rare compared to RFID’s use in warehouses. One of the first countries
to introduce RFID in libraries was Singapore, where the National Library Board tagged more
than 1.5 million volumes in its public libraries. Academic libraries tagging more than 500,000
Special Operational Priority 5.4 Action Team (12 June 2004) “Report on the Use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Technology in The University of Hong Kong’s Libraries”, HKU Libraries.
Want, R. (2004) “RFID: A Key to Automating Everything”, Sci Am, 290 (1), pp. 56–65.
Borriello, G. (2005) “RFID: Tagging the World”, Communications of the ACM, 48 (9), pp. 34–37.
Holland, F., Clauss, C., Kerth, R., Madison, C., Chou, P. B., Gennaro, S. D., et al. (2004) “An Architecture Framework for
RFID”, (accessed 1 December 2008).
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Making RFID Work: The World’s Largest University Library RFID Implementation
volumes were few and included the Homer Babbidge Library in Connecticut, Lied Library in
Nevada, Exact Sciences Library in Leuven and the NUS Library in Singapore. Most
implementations in other places were pilot in nature and took place either in small or branch
RFID was also used to replace barcode and electromagnetic (“EM”) solutions. Compared
with barcodes, RFID had a longer tag life of over 100,000 transactions, as no direct contact
was made with the tags. Also, barcodes could be photocopied to cheat theft-detection
solutions, while RFID tags had no such problem. Unlike EM, RFID did not have the problem
of desensitising more items than were needed, as it was accomplished by writing data to the
RFID tags.
Strategic Initiative
Since the introduction of 3M’s DID system to Hong Kong in 2000, HKU Libraries had been
considering RFID uses. The Joint University Librarians Advisory Committee (“JULAC”), a
committee discussing, co-ordinating and collaborating on library information resources and
services at the libraries of the eight tertiary education institutions in Hong Kong, began
discussing the emerging RFID solution. JULAC set up an RFID working group to look at the
solution and related concerns to assist in the discussion. Ultimately, the group reached the
conclusion that RFID was insecure, as book thieves could potentially compromise the RFID
solution. This view stopped most JULAC members from carrying out massive
implementations; however, HKU Libraries was still interested in the use of RFID in library
From 2000 to 2003, HKU Libraries held discussions with 3M, one of the first RFID vendors
with a local presence, about the RFID initiative and issues pertaining to smart card and
system integration. In 2003, HKU Libraries discussed the initiative at its annual retreat and
incorporated the initiative into its 2003–2004 strategic plan. This led to the formation of the
Special Operational Priority 5.4 Action Team, which was responsible for obtaining RFID
information, estimating costs and identifying areas for improvement. The action team met
three times in 2004 to write a report summarising its findings and commenting on the
technology, costs and benefits of implementing RFID at the libraries.
RFID Relevancies
HKU Libraries noted that being one of the innovators in adopting this cutting-edge wireless
technology might greatly enhance its image as a digital library that employed state-of-the-art
technology in daily operations.16 Although HKU Libraries was not the first to employ RFID in
Hong Kong—small libraries had done small implementations—it would be the biggest one in
Hong Kong in terms of the number of items being tagged. Upon launch, this would be a highprofile programme to enhance the image of HKU Libraries.
The potential of RFID to improve the circulation operations was attractive as well. In 2004,
HKU Libraries was using barcodes as its main circulation solution; however, Sidorko noted
its insufficiencies for the issues that he was facing:
The libraries could have done the book circulation with barcode, frankly, but
with barcodes, it’s a bit clumsy—we need the line of sight to the barcode and
we have to get it under the beam; we can only do one book at a time, and in
Boss, R.W. (2003) “An Overview of RFID”, Library Technology Reports, 39 (6), pp. 7–17.
Special Operational Priority 5.4 Action Team (12 June 2004) “Report on the Use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Technology in The University of Hong Kong’s Libraries”, HKU Libraries.
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Making RFID Work: The World’s Largest University Library RFID Implementation
our books we have barcodes, some on the front, some on the back, some on
the inside back, so all in different places.
– Peter Sidorko, Deputy Librarian17
Sidorko was interested in how RFID could help to serve the user better. This depended on the
four features of RFID technology itself.18 The first one was that, unlike barcodes, RFID tags
could communicate with the antenna in the RFID infrastructure without line of sight. In other
words, even if the RFID tag was attached inside a book cover, the book could still be scanned
within a second. Next, the book did not need to be in a designated position to be read and the
orientation and distance were flexible. Third, the reliability of RFID improved significantly
over time. The vendor demonstrated close to 100% accuracy in scanning books, given careful
tuning. The fourth was that RFID used an algorithm to minimise the collisions when multiple
RFID tags were read. This algorithm allowed a stack of books to be read in a short amount of
These four features worked together to provide a customer service improvement in operations
and circulation during peak periods, which was con …
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