U.C. Berkeley Library Web


Email Notice Task Force Recommendations: 4/16/00


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):

  1. Email - overdue/inventory notices for long term loans
  2. Email - recall notices
  3. Email - NEW NOTICE sent to email recipients only - autoblock for short term loans (overdue notices are not currently produced for short term loans)
  4. Email - pickup notices
  5. Postcard only - search notices
  6. Postcard only - claims ret'ds
  7. Postcard only - bill warning
  8. Email - NEW NOTICE sent to email recipients only - you have been billed on CARS sent when the bill is actually acknowledged by the CARS system

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.,

A patron has 20 books checked out from Gardner, 2 books from BIOS, and all the books are overdue at the same time. Rather than send 22 separate notices, we would send only two notices:
  1. OVERDUE notice from Gardner (which would list all 20 overdue books from Gardner)
  2. OVERDUE notice from Bioscience Library (which would list only the two overdue Books from BIOS)

    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:

  3. PICKUP notice from Business Library
  4. RECALL notice from Gardner

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.

Note: from a programming point of view, there is probably a limit as to how many items could be included in each email notice. If a person had 100 books all overdue at the same time and all from the same location, we would probably have to divide the items among 3 or 4 messages.

C. Display of Email Status/Preference and Address in Autocirc Displays

Email address information will need to appear in a number of places:

  1. Find Patron (F PT) screen: the email address and email status/preference information will both need to appear. If an email address is present in the patron's record, it should appear in this display regardless of the setting for the email status/preference.
  2. Charge screen: both the email address and status information should appear. If the status is Yes for email notification, circulation staff should confirm the patron's email address, as they currently do for street addresses. If the status is to ask patron for preference or indicates that email has bounced, staff can correct or add new information to the patron's record or let the patron know how to do it online. If the status is set to no for email notification, staff can simply confirm the patron's street address.
  3. Patron Inventory screen:
    Notices sent by email will be noted in the notice history display in the patron inventory screen. In this example, email notices are distinguished as "e-notices": Inventory for LIZARD, NINO S run 03/15/00. 1 item checked out.
    1. 10/24/99 PChrg Pd:Bioscience C038721469 TP422.A48 1991
      - Alternative sweeteners
      Checked out:09/24/99 e-Overdue:10/29/99 Blocked:11/08/99
      Warning:11/09/99 Billed:11/24/99 Proc Chrg:$10 Ref: A06261BIOS
      e-Bill Notice:11/27/99 Discharged:02/09/00 Paid:03/01/00
    2. 03/14/00 BLOCKED:Educ/Psych C063877405 ED-P Educ 75 * copy 2
      12 pm - Reading materials for Education 65
      Checked out:03/14/00 e-Blocked:03/15/00

    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:

    Inventory for BRAUN, ANGELIQUE run 03/15/00. 8 items checked out.
    ******** BOUNCED EMAIL 06/01/99 - type HELP BOUNCED for info
    1. 05/26/99 Billed: Bus & Econ C056570708 HF5549.5.M5.L43 1995
      - A practical guide to working with diversity / Leach, Joy
      Checked out:02/28/99 e-Overdue:06/01/99 Blocked:06/09/99
      Warning:06/11/99

    The bounced email message will need to fit on a single line since the following two lines are reserved for Service Desk Block messages:

    Inventory for BROWN, MICHAEL run 03/15/00. 8 items checked out.
    ******** BOUNCED EMAIL 06/01/98 - type HELP BOUNCED for info
    ******** BLOCKED at Service Desk --
    Account in collections. Refer to Loans & Receivables, (510)642-7001
    1. 05/26/98 Billed: Bus & Econ C056570708 HF5549.5.M5.L43 1995
      - A practical guide to working with diversity / Leach, Joy
      Checked out:02/28/98 e-Overdue:06/01/98 Blocked:06/09/98
      Warning:06/11/98 Billed:06/26/98 $100 Ref: A02105BUSI
      Proc Chrg:$10 Sent to Collections:10/08/99

  4. Help screens will also need to be created for email notification, including general information, how to update addresses and change email status, what to do about bounced email, etc.

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:

  1. library staff who could be automatically selected by the system as participants,
  2. library student employees - we would need the cooperation of supervisors to identify these students, and
  3. self-selected patrons from particular academic departments. Several academic departments have email reflectors which could be used to allow unit heads or selectors to inform patrons of the test service and how to particpate. BUSI, for example, has suggested the Economics graduate students as a possible group who might respond positively to such a test.

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

  1. Expand current email status flags in patron records to indicate if a patron does or does not want email, or never responded with a preference. We will also need to be able to flag records for bounced email. The email status flag will have the following values: Y for yes to email
    N for no
    A for ask patron about email preference/address
    B for bounced
    The email status will be translated for the various autocirc and patron inventory displays. Next, we will need to reset all email status flags in patron records to "A" for ask, and "unprotect" the status field so that it can be edited by Library staff.
  2. Patron records for students and academic appointments are currently batch loaded from Student Services and Payroll. We will need to protect email addresses from batch load overlay if email status flag is "Y" or "B". We will allow the batch overlay to occur if the status flag is "N" or "A". Protection from overlay could be reversed if the campus begins using email for official correspondence and if it appears that students are primarily using TeleBears rather than the Library to update their email addresses.
  3. New displays to indicate email related information, address, and status for Charge screen, Inventory screen, F PT screen, etc., will be put in place.
  4. Set up a web form allowing patrons to update email addresses (and possibly other information as well, such as street address and phone number?) and to indicate whether or not they want email notification. An icon for the web form could be put on public pc's throughout the Library along with signage. A link to the web from should be placed on Pathfinder, the Library web page, and individual units' homepages as well.

    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:

  1. current email address in the patron's record - or the absence of one
  2. web site or other off-site mechanism for patrons to change address and tell us if they want email notices or not
  3. date by which they need to make changes, tell us whether or not they want email
  4. estimate of when the new email notification service will begin. Pending programming analysis, we recommend the testing phase for service begin if possible by mid-Fall semster 2000, and the full implementation for all patrons to begin early to mid-Spring 2001. This will allow us to test our mechanism for automatically handling incoming students, as well as to observe any special impact on units who have semester loan periods before we adopt full implementation.

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.

  1. Update GLADIS patron records for those who responded to postcards with email address changes and email preference (set email status flags accordingly).

    We recommend leaving in the email addresses in patron records even if patrons indicate they do not want email notification.

  2. Handling for bounced email will need to be put in place.
  3. Send email notices to all patrons with email addresses who either indicated they wanted email notification or who did not respond with a preference. Do not send email to patrons who said no, I don't want it.

    Differently worded notices would be sent to:

    • patrons who said they want email to confirm their preference and email address
    • patrons who never gave preference

    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:

  1. Email responses from patrons: we recommend patrons be allowed to respond by email to Library email notices. Notices will be batched by library location, with the "reply to" address for that location. An email account for each unit would be created for this purpose, and a number of cut and paste "form letters" could be used to handle the majority of replies efficiently. The ease of communicating in this way may help us to resolve problems before they get to the billing stage. While there is concern over generating a new or shifted workload by these replies, there is equal concern that the Library would appear inaccessible or to be failing to give service if our patrons may not use the most convenient and obvious form of responding to our email messages. The unit which would be most heavily impacted would be the Gardner Stacks due to the sheer volume of notices produced by that department. It is possible that an augmentation in GA may be required for some units.

    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.

  2. Claims Returned's: we recommend patrons be allowed to place claims returned's by email. Units can respond with an email "form letter" to tell patrons that a claim ret'd has been placed and they will be informed of the result by postcard. If the circulation supervisor believes there is a problem with the claims ret'd request or needs more information, the patron can be contacted by email or phone.
  3. Email renewals: we recommend against renewals by email since there are so many cases in which materials cannot be renewed. We recommend instead using another email "form letter" to refer patrons to the online renewal service provided in GLADIS, which can tell them immediately if a renewal is successful and the new due date, or immediately inform patrons if and why a particular renewal cannot be placed.
  4. NRLF materials: patrons will continue to be referred for questions and problems as they are currently. The owning unit will be the contact for materials owned by a UCB library; NRLF will be the contact point for materials owned by other libraries.
  5. Text for email notices, autocirc displays, web address update form, help screens, advertising flyers, etc.
  6. Will the Library's policy on email use at public pc's need to be revisited if we correspond by email to patrons?
  7. Review process for Email Notice Recommendations: we recommend policy review by the Public Services Council, and functional review by the Circulation Services Group.
  8. Formation of an Implementation Team which will be needed for training staff, create wording and design for new notices and autocirc displays, help screens, etc.

Submitted 4/16/00

Penny Bertrang
Norah Foster
Marianne MacDonald
Lorelie Mansur (Chair)
Lea Mascorro
Eileen Pinto
Allison Rea
Peter Soriano


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