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Managing DVD Access and Theft

Pierce County Library System, WA

Innovation Summary

Pierce County Library System (PCLS) addressed significant DVD theft and the poor customer service associated with missing items with a multi-faceted approach to managing DVD access while maintaining high customer satisfaction with the DVD collection and processes regulating use.

Problem Statement

DVD circulation represents 31% of total circulation for the system. Overall theft rate for DVDs was at 22% in 2010, with individual library loss rates ranging from 5.94% to 35.56% of their DVD collections. Theft was occurring in both the self-service holds pickup areas and browsing collections in the libraries. Immediate action was taken to prevent theft in holds pickup area. Customer and staff frustration with DVD theft created a shared understanding of the problem and customers signaled a willingness to adapt their usage, even accepting additional steps in the circulation process, if the end result was reliable access to DVDs. A committee of staff formed to evaluate products and process changes to reduce DVD theft withtheft with the following objectives: 1. Provide customers access to outstanding collections, delivering breadth and depth of titles ; 2. Support customers’ browsing preferences while maintaining the option to request specific titles; 3. Offer an overall satisfying customer experience, characterized as easy, simple, and quick; 4. Maintain self-service options when possible; 5. Minimize impact on public space and integrate into library furniture and floor plan; and 6. Provide an effective, affordable, and sustainable system for staff to implement and maintain.


1. Understand customers’ preferences and priorities; solicit feedback in evaluation of products and processes, provide options to meet varying preferences and adapt processes based on customer feedback. Through surveys and focus groups, PCLS customers have demonstrated a strong preference for browsing collections. PCLS piloted two DVD dispensing products. Based on customer and staff feedback PCLS chose to deploy both systems. One system provided the option for customers to browse the physical cases while the other system allowed customers to browse online, place a reservation, and check out the item within a five-hour timeframe. A third strategy was initiated in two of the largest libraries by providing extensive browsing collections of DVDs and CDs within a staffed, secure area of the library. A small, collection of high demand DVDs was retained at the administrative center to fill DVD request. 2. Balance theft reduction with customer choice and convenience. DVD dispensing units obligate staff time and the cost of units requires libraries to choose how many items to load into units. PCLS targeted reducing theft of new, high demand DVDs. Older movies and titles with less theft appeal remained available on the shelves of the library. For customers who prefer not to use the machine, they still can find a range of movies at their local library and all customers have direct access to a far larger array of titles through requests. Self-service areas where people pick up DVDs they’ve placed on hold represent an area of high theft. In the majority of locations PCLS requires some interaction with staff to check out DVDs they placed on hold. This change, while staff intensive, has signficiantly reduced theft.


All major objectives were met. One style of media dispenser proved difficult to integrate into buildings. Media dispensers consume valuable floor space. In the majority of locations, placement was satisfactory; in two locations, administrative staff would categorize as acceptable. Other objectives: Significant reduction in DVDs theft. • 13.62% decrease in missing DVD items. • Less than 1% (407) of new movies purchased in 2012 was reported missing. Positive customer response to movie dispensers and collection • 85% of survey respondents stated there was a good selection of DVDs available in machines. • 86% of respondents stated selection was easy; 74% said it was quick Improved customer service due to reduced holds’ queues and wait time for requested DVDs, • 5,284 DVD holds automatically cancelled due to customers checking out movies from machines. • Wait times for DVDs people placed on hold reduced from a maximum of 803 days to a maximum 115 days in 2012. • Average wait for a DVD placed on hold dropped from 22 days to 13 days. Cost recovery realized and workload sustainable. The system has paid for itself and ongoing theft reduction and prevention pays for maintenance costs. Implementing DVD security impacts staff workload for selectors, processors, IT department, and customer experience staff. While the workload is sustainable and has not required additional staff, it is a significant consideration. The workload is acceptable and is offset with the improved customer experience, gained cost savings, and more accountable use of public resources and funds.