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Simply Shorter Holds Slips

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Innovation Summary

The installation of automated materials-handling equipment in the Library’s material sort center offered an opportunity to revisit long-standing processes associated with materials-handling at all levels. Paging staff from the Library’s Materials Retrieval Team recommended shortening the automatically generated “hold slips” attached to items routed from our Main Library.

Problem Statement

The installation of new automated materials-handling equipment required fundamentally changing workflow, organizational structure, and staff duties. Because our Library system includes 40 branch locations and a Main Library, we often face challenges in ensuring process consistency, communication, and system-wide awareness of best practices. The sorting equipment provided an obvious and immediate benefit in improving basic sorting practices by going from a system where more than 85,000 items a week were manually sorted by staff to a more efficient, mistake-free automated process. The implementation goal was to realize both the benefits of automating the previously labor-intensive process of sorting, and to also solicit suggestions from staff at all levels of the organization for ideas that might produce additional positive results in efficiency and cost-savings.


Our Main Library is a 500,000 square foot building containing more than 4 million items. Three of the Main Library’s floors are open to the public. The remaining two floors are closed stack areas. The task of the Main Library’s 19-person Materials Retrieval Team, which consists almost entirely of page positions, is to locate items at the Main Library that have been requested by customers for pick-up at any of the Library’s 41 locations. Additionally, the Materials Retrieval Team processes thousands of “hot author” items every month--titles on which customers have placed holds in advance of publication. When new releases by these authors are received, Materials Retrieval staff at the Main Library process any holds that have been placed, and then prepare the items for delivery to customers’ pick-up locations. During this process, a huge number of “holds slips” are generated by receipt printers, which indicate where material should be shipped. When the new automated materials-handling equipment was installed, it was determined that these slips, which remain physically attached to material during sorting, must be positioned differently to avoid becoming tangled in the equipment or lost. Rather than simply change the placement of holds slips, Materials Retrieval staff surveyed material they were sending and receiving, and reviewed the hold slip placement and size. The manager of the Materials Retrieval Department contacted branch managers and the computer technician involved in setting parameters for hold slip printing to discuss alternate ideas for achieving the desired outcome. As a result of this organic, front-line staff- initiated investigation, the suggestion was made (and subsequently implemented) that slips from the Materials Retrieval Department be significantly shortened. Even after taking into consideration the workflow adjustments it required of them, Materials Retrieval staff believed that shortening the slips would make the sorting process more efficient and reduce the use of expensive receipt printer paper.


Hold slips generated at the Main Library are now approximately 4 inches shorter than they had been prior to the implementation of the new automated sorting equipment and subsequent push for feedback on materials handling. This hold slip length change was implemented in mid-February, 2012. During that time more than 4,000 copies of “hot author” items have been sent from the Main Library to branch locations. The decreased length of the hold slip has already resulted in using 1,300 feet less of receipt printer paper. Additionally, in March more than 67,000 holds were placed by customers for pick up at branch locations on items owned by the Main Library, meaning that over time, this change could potentially result in up to 4 miles of receipt printer paper being saved. Translating this into cost savings, this could potentially result in saving nearly $1,000 a year in receipt printer paper.