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Jacksonville Public Library Collection Inventory

Jacksonville Public Library

Innovation Summary

Over the past decade, the Jacksonville Public Library has fine-tuned its collection inventory process. This process guides materials handling improvements, identifies lost materials, and most importantly, keeps our catalog accurate, thereby improving customer service, because more items can be located where our catalog says they should be.

Problem Statement

In September 2000, the citizens of Jacksonville voted for the “Better Jacksonville Plan.” This plan included funding for a new Main Library, six new branch libraries and improvements at most of the fourteen existing branches. As planning for these projects began, the Jacksonville Public Library (JPL) examined the accuracy of the OPAC and related holdings statistics in preparation for a collection that would expand by at least a third. Unfortunately it was not unheard of for customers and staff to walk away from the stacks frustrated when the supposedly “available” item was not on the shelf. There were various reasons why the OPAC was incorrect. Some items were shelved incorrectly. Items with a home location of one branch would be found scattered throughout other branches’ shelves. Some items found on shelves were still in transit between locations according to the OPAC. Some items were simply missing. Staffs’ skill at checking in and shelving, existing security measures, and the rate of loss were all in question. JPL’s ability to accurately account for its collection was being questioned. Improvements were necessary. The goal was two-fold. First, make the collection data in the circulation system and OPAC as accurate as possible. Second, determine a rate of loss and then determine how to reduce it if possible or necessary. It was decided that the best way to begin addressing these goals was through a collection inventory.


In 2002 and 2003, taking advantage of the down time at several locations temporarily closed for renovations, a staff crew using laptop computers and scanners inventoried the collections at three of the smaller locations. This was a cumbersome process even for collections averaging 34,000 items in size. Results from those first inventories were not completely accurate. A core group of staff were used but most staff were different at each location. This resulted in a slower handling of materials and missed sections as new staff were trained and got comfortable with the equipment. It was determined that more equipment and more staff would reduce the number of hours needed to inventory the collection. A multi-day inventory at any operational locations was ruled out since inconsistencies in the results could not be eliminated in the database as it changed daily. With plans to inventory six branches in 2004, most of which would not be temporary closed, the idea of inventorying every collection this way was determined to be impractical and costly. The next avenue pursued was the hiring of a commercial inventory company. The idea of contracting a company was appealing since they could actually do a snapshot of the collection at a particular moment. In early 2004, RGIS was hired and worked with ILS staff to use data from the SirsiDynix system. With RGIS an average inventory was completed after hours in approximately six hours. Reports were generated immediately after the inventory data was downloaded. Automated reports marked missing any item not scanned. Between 2004 and 2008, all 21 locations were inventoried. In 2009, as part of a competitive bid process, JPL hired WIS to assist with the inventory process, resulting in a cost savings. JPL again inventoried all locations from 2009 through 2011.


Inventorying the collection regularly with the services of a professional inventory company has made the ILS collection data and OPAC more accurate. This accuracy has made a difference to staff and customers. The first cycle of professional inventories done from 2004 through 2008 was primarily database cleanup. This is evident in the net change in the collection size. Branches that had opened in 2005 and inventoried in 2007/2008 consistently had a net loss of less than 2%. Branches with larger, older collections averaged a 16% net loss. Following the final inventory in 2008, JPL had a 7.42% net collection loss. The second cycle of professional inventories done from 2009 through 2011 was truly collection database maintenance. Following the final inventory in 2011, JPL had a 3.36% net collection loss. This is a loss of slightly over 1% per year. Existing security measures were determined adequate. In addition to the original goals of the inventory project being achieved, other significant benchmarks and initiatives have been set and achieved. The inventory process produces several reports that have been useful for targeting areas for materials handling improvement. One report provides data on checked out materials found during the inventory. Changes made by branch staff resulted in an 81% decrease in the number of checked out items found in the second inventory cycle compared to the first cycle. While it was more economical to hire a company to handle the inventory process, JPL looked to make the process even more cost effective by bidding the work out and setting up a multi-year contract. By doing this, the cost to inventory the system a second time was reduced by 30% and all locations were inventoried in three years rather than five years.