Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Holds" (aka "Reserves") and the New ILS

Among the issues to be decided by the Library before the changeover to the new ILS is how to provide the best service to customers who want to have an item held for them to pick up later, or sent to another location. A related questions is whether to allow customers to reserve an item that is currently checked out.

Longtime staff will remember the old paper "reserves" system in which customers could ask to be put on a waiting list and notified when an unavailable title was returned. After automating in the early 1980's, the Library decided to suspend the reserves system in favor of meeting public demand for popular materials by purchasing multiple copies of bestsellers for all locations and by implementing a highly efficient overnight delivery system.

While this system has worked well for the Library and its customers over the years, some flaws have become evident, especially in regards to materials that may be "popular" but not bestsellers. Customers are sometimes frustrated when trying to track down a title for which we may have only a few copies, or only one copy, in the whole system. The idea of reserves continues to appeal to many library customers, as evidenced by the strong positive response to the idea of "using the Internet to have books or other materials currently checked out reserved for you when returned" in our recent customer survey.

An additional consideration for the Library is that our current procedure for sending items from one location to another to fill customer requests using the Route Out function in DRA Classic cannot be transferred just as it is to the Sirsi Unicorn ILS. Moving items through the system in Unicorn requires that they be tied to a borrower's record. Attempting to provide the same service we do now without adding additional services would require more staff (and customer) time and could be seen by library customers as a step backwards.

For this reason, Unicorn Policy File Team chair Paul Gahn has been leading his team as well as other decision-makers through a review of our options, beginning with a discussion at the Jan. 9, 2006 PSG meeting. On February 27, 2006, the team met with selected public services representatives to determine whether or not the Library should activate the Holds function of the new ILS. The group decided that MPLIC will introduce the Holds service in a limited manner by allowing holds to be placed by customers in the online catalog for items that are on the shelf as well as checked out. Locations and materials ineligible for holds will include: reference locations and items; popular library fiction and non-fiction books; and, new (less than 1 year old) 3-day circulating entertainment DVDs. Additionally, holds will not be allowed for titles when all copies are assumed lost, missing, withdrawn, and so on.

More details are provided in Paul's minutes of the Feb. 27 meeting, posted below. As with any major system change, many details are yet to be worked out. Over the next few months, many staff members will be involved in reviewing workflow issues and developing new procedures. However, we are confident that the end result will be improved services for our library customers.

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