And guess what? In my first two weeks at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, I kept hearing things about mailings. And holds. And mailing holds. It finally clicked, and I asked “wait a sec. You mean we mail stuff to patrons?”
Can you guess what the answer was? Yes indeedy, we do in fact mail ALL HOLDS to patrons. That means books, videos, and music – whatever was requested. Since the 1970’s. And we budget for it, too. This year’s budget (ending in Dec) had $360,000 earmarked for mailing reserve items to patrons, and we’re increasing it in our 2007 budget (US mailing rates went up).
Why in the world do we do this? Because our patrons absolutely love the service. In fact, Gina Millsap, our director, has spoken with patrons who have stated “this is one of the most important” library services and have also said that if we didn’t have this service, they’d “just use Amazon.”
Awhile back, Topeka looked into cost savings of the mailing holds program (packaging and mailing items) vs. doing holds the normal way (a shelf in the library, constant babysitting of said shelf, staff time to shelve, reshelve, calling patrons who forgot to pick up items, etc). The cost savings, believe it or not, was minimal.
This is the “missing piece” of a library Netflix model. We already have the content,. This proves that, in some cases, libraries DO have the ability and the funding to get content to patrons – in their space, on their timetable, just like they’re used to with other cool services.