Long message which you probably can skip unless you want the
rationalized reasoning behind my view and KCLS modification of it for
Being one of the the "far-out thinkers" who rarely gets their whole
ideas implemented, I have always suggested that there be a
rationalized reason behind the determination of check-out periods.
And this reason should involve the mission of the institution.
I assume "support of teaching" operations have models for comparison
when looking at supplying teaching materials; public libraries often
looked at the video store model instead of looking at their own handling of
Once (jokingly) suggesting that book check-out period use the same
approach as being applied to video and really was classified as not
in the real world for that thought. "A user decides they can get to
using the material right now, checks it out, uses it in one sitting,
and returns it real quick" = 2 day check-out for video (2 hours
viewing); 3 day check-out for book (6 hours reading spread over 2
Actually, KCLS looked at the assumption that the public views video
in one (or maybe two) sittings of a day each plus requiring the time
to get to viewing it and the time to return the video to the library.
We came up with at least 5 days to use a video. Since we believe in
fostering a "regular library visit habit", video then fits into our 7
day loan period along with periodicals. The check-out period starts
when the customer takes the item out of our library, therefore, we
do assume that the patron had determined they can get to it rather
soon. This results in a turnover of about 4-5 times per month with
some early returnings. And it reinforced our mission of providing
free and open access to information. Rapidly circulating stuff is
not KCLS' mission although we like to have effective turnover.
(CDROM takes longer than a week to get to, use, and return so it fits
into our 28 day loan period along with book.)
Before we became enlightened (or just worn out) we loaned
"non-fiction" video for longer than "fiction" video assuming there
was some thought involved in using non-fiction as compared to
fiction video. We have moved beyond that crass distinction and feel
that fiction/non-fiction distinctions don't apply to check-out
philosophy. Back when we mailed materials to the home (pre
postal rate increase) we added 3 days because 1) the video could
arrive at the home when the patron could not get to it rather soon
and 2) it took a day or two in the mail and we checked it out when we
mailed it. Rationalized 10 days. This results in a turnover of
about 3-4 times per month with some early returnings.
To further complicated things, we used to have a small collection of
very popular "new releases" from which we wanted extremely rapid
turnover (like 20 time per month); these checked out for 2 days.
This small collection (about 40 titles with 20-30 copies each that
dropped and added about 10 titles each month) also did not take
reserves/holds but was "browsed" at the local location. Voila,
Video Store philosophy and practice on this collection. Much staff
and public wanted all of our video to be handled in this way. We
have ceased this collection and folded it into the general video
collection which does take holds.
Taking holds in our kind of public library system means we ship items
from branch to branch for the public, this adds another 2-3 days of
not circulating and reduces the turnover rate for an item. We also
respond to holds by attempting to buy enough/additional copies to
never go over a 5 holds per copy ratio.
So what does this all boil down to: we now shoehorn all materials
into either 7 day or 28 day circulation periods and rationalize which
one by guessing how long it takes someone to "use the item". We also
feel if someone wants rapid turnover they should open a commercial store
instead of a library. I feel that the institution goals may change
this approach; supporting teaching probably requires rapid turnover
of some materials -- not really my "pigeon".
Ralph Huntzinger (206) 684-6673
Collection Management Services
King County Library System