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David Lee King

The “Missing Piece” of the Library Netflix Model



Previously, I have posted a little about Netflix and how libraries could use the model in a similar way (mainly riffing off Michael Porter’s great posts about Netflix). And then I switched jobs.

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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://lcpl.lib.va.us/ Cindy Timmerman

    Do you check these out to the patrons before mailing them?

  • http://lcpl.lib.va.us Cindy Timmerman

    Do you check these out to the patrons before mailing them?

  • davidleeking

    Yes we do.

  • davidleeking

    Yes we do.

  • Holly

    We have a similar type of program at our library. We have mailed books forever as well. Our patrons have a choice of picking up at the library or getting them through the mail. There has been a push the last couple years to encourage people to pick up their materials when they can (the scales have tipped a bit; like in your library, the cost savings were never that big before, but that’s changing), but it is by no means required.

    Yay for books-by-mail!

  • Holly

    We have a similar type of program at our library. We have mailed books forever as well. Our patrons have a choice of picking up at the library or getting them through the mail. There has been a push the last couple years to encourage people to pick up their materials when they can (the scales have tipped a bit; like in your library, the cost savings were never that big before, but that’s changing), but it is by no means required.

    Yay for books-by-mail!

  • http://www.librarystuff.net/ Steven M. Cohen

    Bravo TSCPL! Brilliant, progressive, and hopefully a historical program that will be the wave otf the future for all libraries!

  • http://www.librarystuff.net Steven M. Cohen

    Bravo TSCPL! Brilliant, progressive, and hopefully a historical program that will be the wave otf the future for all libraries!

  • http://searchlounge.org/ chrisf

    Is this program completely free for patrons?

  • http://searchlounge.org chrisf

    Is this program completely free for patrons?

  • http://www.ocls.info/ Jim Myers

    Here at the Orange County Library System in Orlando, Florida, we’ve also been delivering requested material to our patrons since the 1970s. The service is called MAYL (Materials Access from Your Library), and yes, our patrons absolutely love it. In 2005, we delivered 600,000 holds, and we will exceed that in 2006.

    From 1974 – 1995, OCLS used the postal service for all deliveries. Since the mid-90s, we have enjoyed a great relationship with a small local courier company that was formed with the OCLS home delivery service in mind. The courier company delivers requested material in 1-3 business days at a cost that gets us 5-7 day delivery from the post office.

    Though OCLS has been providing home delivery of holds since Gerald Ford was President, the service has never been as important as it is today in our efforts to stay relevant to our customers. On November 14, OCLS is providing a webinar about our MAYL service, called “Home Delivery: The Library without Walls”. Here’s the link, for more information:

    http://www.ocls.info/LOE/next_level.asp?bhcp=1

  • http://www.ocls.info Jim Myers

    Here at the Orange County Library System in Orlando, Florida, we’ve also been delivering requested material to our patrons since the 1970s. The service is called MAYL (Materials Access from Your Library), and yes, our patrons absolutely love it. In 2005, we delivered 600,000 holds, and we will exceed that in 2006.

    From 1974 – 1995, OCLS used the postal service for all deliveries. Since the mid-90s, we have enjoyed a great relationship with a small local courier company that was formed with the OCLS home delivery service in mind. The courier company delivers requested material in 1-3 business days at a cost that gets us 5-7 day delivery from the post office.

    Though OCLS has been providing home delivery of holds since Gerald Ford was President, the service has never been as important as it is today in our efforts to stay relevant to our customers. On November 14, OCLS is providing a webinar about our MAYL service, called “Home Delivery: The Library without Walls”. Here’s the link, for more information:

    http://www.ocls.info/LOE/next_level.asp?bhcp=1

  • Michelle

    The big bonus for me with Netflix is the return postage. Netflix makes it soooo incredibly easy to receive it and return it. I don’t have to drive anywhere, it all comes and goes from my mailbox.
    My public library doesn’t mail holds. It would be nice to do, I don’t know if how much I would use it if it did. I know I would be absolutely giddy if it including return postage.
    A true Netflix model would incorporate the return postage. That would be very very appealing.

  • Michelle

    The big bonus for me with Netflix is the return postage. Netflix makes it soooo incredibly easy to receive it and return it. I don’t have to drive anywhere, it all comes and goes from my mailbox.
    My public library doesn’t mail holds. It would be nice to do, I don’t know if how much I would use it if it did. I know I would be absolutely giddy if it including return postage.
    A true Netflix model would incorporate the return postage. That would be very very appealing.

  • davidleeking

    In our case, we have drop-off boxes located throughout the city, so there’s not much need for return postage. Just drop off the book while doing other errands.

  • davidleeking

    In our case, we have drop-off boxes located throughout the city, so there’s not much need for return postage. Just drop off the book while doing other errands.

  • http://denverlibrary.org/ Michelle Jeske

    Can we get a copy of your cost comparison?

  • http://denverlibrary.org Michelle Jeske

    Can we get a copy of your cost comparison?

  • Shelly

    We have the same type of program at my (academic) library. Our patrons love it, too. We even have a link in our catalog records that takes patrons straight to the form to have items mailed to them or held for them. The only drawback, in my opinion, is that patrons must pay for return postage. But I suppose it’s book rate so it’s not as expensive as it could be.

  • Shelly

    We have the same type of program at my (academic) library. Our patrons love it, too. We even have a link in our catalog records that takes patrons straight to the form to have items mailed to them or held for them. The only drawback, in my opinion, is that patrons must pay for return postage. But I suppose it’s book rate so it’s not as expensive as it could be.

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com/ K.G. Schneider

    The drop-off box reminds me of how Sears and Lands’ End teamed up so that LE returns could be dropped off at any Sears. This was far easier than attempting to go to the post office.

    Cool service, David, and yes. With a mailing service, if I had a choice between the library and Amazon used books, I’d use the library. This service is a good example of how older services are 2.0 as well.

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com K.G. Schneider

    The drop-off box reminds me of how Sears and Lands’ End teamed up so that LE returns could be dropped off at any Sears. This was far easier than attempting to go to the post office.

    Cool service, David, and yes. With a mailing service, if I had a choice between the library and Amazon used books, I’d use the library. This service is a good example of how older services are 2.0 as well.

  • Natalie

    Speaking about costs… you still need storage space and you also have to reshelve the books so that they can be found later. Did you include this into the cost comparison?

  • Natalie

    Speaking about costs… you still need storage space and you also have to reshelve the books so that they can be found later. Did you include this into the cost comparison?

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com/ K.G. Schneider

    Natalie, maybe David understood your question and it’s his blog… but I didn’t. In either hold model you need storage space and you need to reshelve items, so what would be compared?

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com K.G. Schneider

    Natalie, maybe David understood your question and it’s his blog… but I didn’t. In either hold model you need storage space and you need to reshelve items, so what would be compared?

  • davidleeking

    Yes, we did figure storage, reshelving, etc costs into it… and it was still cheaper.

  • davidleeking

    Yes, we did figure storage, reshelving, etc costs into it… and it was still cheaper.

  • Natalie

    Ok, thanks.

  • Natalie

    Ok, thanks.

  • http://swashford.blogspot.com/ swashford

    This is a very exciting idea – I don’t think we have anything similar in UK public libraries but we should have! Thanks for sharing the details especially about costing and patron response – this is really useful when trying to persuade library managers that we could make this work too.

  • http://swashford.blogspot.com/ swashford

    This is a very exciting idea – I don’t think we have anything similar in UK public libraries but we should have! Thanks for sharing the details especially about costing and patron response – this is really useful when trying to persuade library managers that we could make this work too.

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  • http://www.sitelersitesi.com/ site ekle

    It was good to meet you at Word on the Street on Sunday, Jim. I’m really getting into the book now, especially now the defilement has dried properly

  • http://www.sitelersitesi.com site ekle

    It was good to meet you at Word on the Street on Sunday, Jim. I’m really getting into the book now, especially now the defilement has dried properly

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  • http://galecia.com/weblog Lori Ayre

    Well, well, well, what a nice thread to find! I love that Topeka chooses to mail Hold items to patrons by default. That’s one step better than the Orange County system (IMHO) where users can choose to have the item mailed but then have to provide additional information (groan – don’t you already know my address?).

    The fact that Topeka makes it so easy on both ends of the Holds process is fantastic. Having multiple book drops and a map showing where they all are tells you how service minded this library is. Kudos!

    I’m working with a group here in California who will be piloting a home delivery project (hopefully) and we decided to charge $3 per item so it was useful to get that confirmation from Meredith (who’s husband, at least, is willing to pay that much). My theory is that people will pay for convenience; that time is more important than money (at a certain income level) and that offering these convenience services is critical for libraries going forward.

  • http://galecia.com/weblog Lori Ayre

    Well, well, well, what a nice thread to find! I love that Topeka chooses to mail Hold items to patrons by default. That’s one step better than the Orange County system (IMHO) where users can choose to have the item mailed but then have to provide additional information (groan – don’t you already know my address?).

    The fact that Topeka makes it so easy on both ends of the Holds process is fantastic. Having multiple book drops and a map showing where they all are tells you how service minded this library is. Kudos!

    I’m working with a group here in California who will be piloting a home delivery project (hopefully) and we decided to charge $3 per item so it was useful to get that confirmation from Meredith (who’s husband, at least, is willing to pay that much). My theory is that people will pay for convenience; that time is more important than money (at a certain income level) and that offering these convenience services is critical for libraries going forward.

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  • http://www.brochure-holder-stands.com.au Brochure holders stands

    Don’t forget Amazon has been improving much over the years. Thanks for the post.