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Reduced Handling: Shared collections and changing processes in a customer-driven environment

Hamilton Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Beth Hovius, Director of Public Service and Collection Development , bhovius@hpl.ca

Problem Statement

We were feeling the negative impact of our own success. We needed to find better ways to handle the volume of materials being handled, particularly holds, which account for 25% of the circulation and which requires double handling.

Innovation

A combination of actions resulted in sustainable materials-handling without compromising service to customers.
  • Shared collections introduced in late 2007 with the exception of Central Library non-fiction, and magazines. This reduced the volume of shipping by 30%.
  • Staff empowerment: Front line staff was trained to weed by condition, and to remove excess copies, as demand decreased which also reduced shipping and handling.
  • Holds process changes: Item goes to the next customer on the list at the same branch instead, of the next customer on the list elsewhere which reduced delivery by a further 25%.
  • Technical Services triggers holds on new materials: Customers receive new materials faster, as delays incurred when shipped to a branch library are removed.
  • Standardized labeling and shelving: The number of labels applied was reduced by75%, improving vendor delivery times and reducing costs. This also resulted in standardized shelving across the system.
  • New Gondola Displays: Increased the turnover of the collection, and encouraged browsing.
  • Mini-Sorter: This checks in and sorts returns into two categories- shelf-ready (for students to shelve directly) and exceptions which are handled by staff, as available, thus resolving complaints about delays in check in, and reducing staff materials handling.

Progress

  • Customer-focused collections: We always thought we had this right; in retrospect we didn’t. Some branches increased by 40% (circulation) when these changes were made.
  • Improved Collections = Increased Browsing: Our collections are better than ever and customers are returning to browsing the shelves. Holds, as a % of circulation is now remaining constant.
  • Holds Policy: We were able to retain a generous holds policy permitting customers to place 50 holds, including for materials which are on the shelf.
  • Reduced Delivery Costs: The latest tender for the Delivery contract saved $75,000 annually.