The Library currently produces and mails thousands of postcards, including overdue, recall, searches, and pickup notices, bill warnings, and others. The notices are sent as a courtesy primarily to remind patrons to return and pick up materials. The postage and handling costs are considerable, and additionally, the Library has received frequent complaints from patrons that they do not receive timely notification because of mail delivery problems. Although patrons have access to their inventories online and the Library is not under any obligation to send these courtesy notices, delays in notification lead to patrons' frustration and, ultimately, to reduced access to the collections. Email notices are being proposed as one way to improve service and access to the collections while simultaneously reducing our ongoing costs.
A. Proposed Format for Patron Notices:
We recommend the following formats for patron notices, and the creation of two new email-ONLY notices (we do not recommend creating new postcard notice types):
Postcard only formats for searches, claims returned's, and bill warnings are for two reasons: library units need these notices in postcard form to aid in searching their stacks and then to discard the postcard and discharge the item if it is found, mailing the card only if the item is not found. In the case of the Bill Warning, it also insures the patron is notified at least once by postcard before any billing action takes place. There is currently enough room on the Bill Warning for long term materials to add something to indicate that previous overdue notices were sent via email (there is not enough room for this information on the Bill Warning postcard for short term materials). The notice history in the patron's inventory will also indicate if a notice was sent via email.
All email notices will contain the url to a web form which will allow patrons to update their addresses and email notice preference. We will encrypt patron information to maintain privacy and security just as we currently do in authenticating patrons through Pathfinder.
B. Batching of Notices:
To avoid inundating patrons with confusing and large numbers of notices, we recommend batching notices by notice type and then by library location, e.g.,
In addition, on this same day, this patron has 3 books to pick up from BUSI, and has a recalled book from Gardner, so they would receive two additional notices:
Patrons will be less likely to simply delete messages without reading them if we batch them. In the above example, our patron would receive only four email messages instead of 26 separate messages. Four messages would be a useful service whereas 26 messages would likely be a nuisance.
In addition, batching notices by library location will aid patrons in contacting the correct library unit if they have questions, whether by return email or in person or on the phone.
The notice type and library location should appear in the subject line of the email, as shown above, so that the content of the message is immediately apparent.
C. Display of Email Status/Preference and Address in Autocirc Displays
Email address information will need to appear in a number of places:
If an email notice is bounced, a message in reverse video will display at the top of the inventory screen on the line underneath the patron's name along with the date the email bounced:
The bounced email message will need to fit on a single line since the following two lines are reserved for Service Desk Block messages:
D. Phased Implementation:
Email notices will result in visibly improved service which will positively impact a broad spectrum of our clientele if a large percentage of our patrons choose to participate. We therefore need to find ways to make email notification broadly used and accepted by our patrons, with easy and acessible mechanisms for patrons to change addresses, etc. We will also need to find a way to reasonably assure we have correct email addresses, be able to notify everyone of the new email notification service, and allow patrons to easily opt in or out.
We recommend a test phase using easily defined patron populations to not only test the programming but also to gauge the impact on public service units, with special attention to differences between units with semester loans vs. revolving due dates, short term and reserves collections vs. long=term collections, etc. Test populations could include:
We propose a phased approach as described below. Phase I would be applied to all patrons. Subsequent phases would then be applied to test populations. Once the testing is completed, they will be applied to the general patron population.
Phase I -Preliminary Setup
At this or a later stage: allow staff to update patron email addresses in autocirc and consider allowing patrons to use GLADIS to perform updates as well. This has an additional advantage in that circulation staff using wyse terminals can assist patrons at point of contact.
Provide training for staff to inform and assist patrons and to update patron records in GLADIS.
Phase II -Using Postcards to Notifiy Patrons of New Service
Test Phase: To test the postcard notifcation for the new service, library supervisors will provide the Systems Office with the names of their students employees, their email adresses, and circ id's. GLADIS can then produce postcards for these students. Postcards will also be produced for all library staff. The postcards will indicate that this is a test for the new service with instructions on how to particpate.
At this time, selectors and unit heads who have departments willing to be guinea pigs in the test would send email to departmental reflectors with instructions for how to participate. Postcards would not be sent to this test population.
For General Implementation: When the service is to be implemented for all patrons, GLADIS will send postcard notices to all current non-expired patrons informing them of the new service. Patrons from our initial test population who are already paritcipating in the service won't be sent these postcards. The postcards should include the following information:
The library should also consider advertising materials such as posters, flyers, bookmarks, signs on public pc's and wyse terminals, perhaps even a Daily Cal ad and/or article to encourage patron respsonse for the new "enhanced" service we're offering. Units may also wish to send something to their departments via departmental email reflectors, etc.
A postcard will also be generated whenever a new patron record is added to the database that is not already flagged with an email preference. When a record is added by Service Desk staff, an email preference would be set at that time.
Phase III - Email Followup to Ensure Service is Widely Used
Test Phase: Send email followup notices to everyone in test populations for who we have email addresses, including library staff, library student employees identified by supervisors, and those patrons who chose to participate in the test.
For General Implementation: Email followup will be sent to all patrons as described below.
We recommend leaving in the email addresses in patron records even if patrons indicate they do not want email notification.
Differently worded notices would be sent to:
The notices will also contain the url to the email address/preference update web form and information on the advantages of the the email service. If the patron uses email software such as Eudora, he/she can simply go directly to the web from from their email notice since the url will be hotlinked.
To obtain the greatest possible level of participation among our patrons, we recommend sending email notices rather than postcards to patrons who never respond with a preference and whose patron records contain an email address. The above email preference query should inform patrons we will assume yes, they wish the email notification service if we do not hear from them. However, the email status flag would remain "A" for ask so that our circulation staff can query these patrons when they come in to check out a book, etc. (the email status will always appear on the charge screen to alert staff). The patron record can be appropriately updated at that time.
Phase IV - Arrival of the Email Era
Provide additional advertising, bookmarks, and staff training as necessary.
E. Bounced Email Handling
Bounced email messages will cause the email status flag to be changed to "B". A message indicating the patron had bounced email will appear on the patron's inventory screen near the top of the display in reverse video along with the date of the bounced email. The bounced email status will also display on the Charge screen, F PT screen, and other appropriate autocirc displays. This will alert both the patron and circulation staff that the patron's email address may need to be corrected and the email status flag updated. The web form for patron-initiated email address updates should have an option for confirming that an address is valid in spite of bounced email. When an address is confirmed on the web form, this should trigger the email status flag to be changed from "B" to "Y".
Currently, units may have a service desk block placed on a patron's record due to a bad street address. Because email can bounce for a large variety of reasons and may reflect a temporary problem with a mail server or network rather than a bad email address, we recommend that the patron's record NOT be automatically blocked in the case of bounced email. Instead, postcards will be generated for all future notices rather than email if the email status flag is "B".
If it is possible to distinguish the type of notice which has been bounced, we recommend forwarding bounced RECALL notices to units to allow immediate followup for materials in high demand. We are investigating whether this may be possible or if it might be possible only in some cases or not reliably possible at all since different mail daemons handle and report bounced email with great variability.
F. Other concerns and considerations:
Attention will need to be given to the text of email notices to minimize unnecessary correspondence. For example, overdue notices should include a hot link to instructions for renewing books on GLADIS and/or Pathfinder.
The Library Systems Office is investigating security issues regarding the above-mentioned email accounts which may be accessible to student employees. We may be able to set up these accounts so that a pop mail server would be required, barring direct logon or access to our library machine.
Lorelie Mansur (Chair)