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Internal Delivery System Redesign

Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County

Innovation Leader: Carlton Sears, Library Director, Technical Services Director & Clerical Training Supervisor, csears@libraryvisit.org

Problem Statement

The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County (PLYMC) is a county –wide library system with a Main Library and 15 branches, serving a population of 240,000 within a 413 sq. mile service area. Like all libraries, an internal delivery service distributes library materials, mail, supplies, equipment and other items between locations of the library system. Prior to the fall of 2008, the library used delivery methods commonly found in libraries wherein items are loaded into plastic totes (boxes) and moved on trucks between locations. The system required two delivery trucks, two full-time maintenance dept. drivers, and a clerical staff of 2.6 FTE to pack and unpack the totes at our Main Library, and the combined efforts of staff throughout the system to pack and unpack boxes at each location. In addition, these expenditures of resources did not result in the high level of customer service the library sought to achieve--materials were subject to wear and tear; turnaround times lagged; handling of the plastic totes resulted in employee injuries. Several additional factors converged to prompt efforts to reevaluate and reengineer the current sorting, delivery and new book processing work flow:

  • Library patrons now had the ability to place their own reservations for materials. “Materials holds” were thus increasing rapidly, resulting in more items moving through the delivery system.
  • In April 2006, the Library began participating in Search Ohio, a new resource-sharing consortium among participating Innovative Interface libraries in Ohio, giving PLYMC users one-click access to 5 times the number of titles currently available, further adding to items moving through the system.
  • In 2007, PLYMC acquired a 25,000 square foot facility with the objective to relocate maintenance, technical services and the sorting/ delivery process to this new location along with a new branch.

Innovation

PLYMC hired J. Huber & Associates to review the current shipping and delivery process and recommend efficiencies. Mr. Huber evaluated and documented the current environment, incorporated growth projections for the next three years and presented his best practice shipping and delivery model customized to PLYMC. PLYMC then began a multi-year transition to a new system for transporting books and other library materials. Plastic totes were eliminated. All materials are now moved on customized rolling carts using a customized delivery truck and renovated space at the new facility specially outfitted to house the delivery operation.

Progress

Cost of operation and turnaround time has been dramatically improved. One full-time driver and truck now accomplish what used to take two drivers and two trucks. Average turnaround time for items being delivered has dropped from 96 to 24 hours. Staff efficiencies resulted in more staff hours devoted to direct customer service rather than back room packing and unpacking activities.