Materials Handling Strategy Analysis

Stark County District Library is pursuing a series of initiatives to minimize redundancy in materials handling practices and reduce the time staff spend in the back office so they can spend more time out in the library engaging with customers in a variety of ways. The Library’s strategic vision includes a dramatic reduction of materials handling activities in each branch and the elimination of service desks. Instead of working behind desks, the expectation is that staff will work with patrons side-by-side in the branches and spend more time delivering high-quality programming inside and outside of the library buildings. In order to achieve this vision, the Library is exploring a “pure central processing” strategy in which material is returned at each library location but only checked in at a central sorter. This workflow would be supported by two times daily delivery service. The expectation is that this approach would result in material check-in within a four hour window, physical delivery turnaround times of no more than 36 hours and a traditional “bookdrop” workflow for patrons. The Library seeks consulting assistance to analyze the “pure central processing” strategy and to identify critical elements of a materials handling strategy that will allow the Library to achieve their strategic vision.

Where Does This Book Belong? Let the Patron Decide.

In this article, I propose a way we could apply a living, breathing, context-sensitive classification system to parts of our collection instead of basing the organization of physical items on the static, subjective and sometimes arbitrary classification system.

I was inspired by a book I read called The Dynamic Library: Organizing Knowledge at the Sitterwerk – Precedents and Possibilities.  The book is a collection of essays from a symposium held in Sitterwerk, Switzerland in 2011. At the symposium, participants explored classification systems and new orders of knowledge in the context of an art collection.

As they noted in the book, the primary purpose of classification systems is to assign a place for a book so that it can then be found. Most classification systems we are familiar with such as the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC), LCC (Library of Congress Classification), UDC (Universal Classification System) and BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) support this primary purpose and also support serendipitous discovery by organizing related things together.  

However, the person browsing the physical shelves will only enjoy the serendipitous benefit from one of the subject headings associated with an item. So, for example, I might not find that book about scientific breakthroughs by lesbians because the book would have to be placed in either the 509.2 Dewey range (with science) or possibly somewhere in the 306.7663  (with lesbians) but it wouldn’t be in both places.   And if you were looking for a book about Islamic lesbian scientists, you’d really have a hard time because many of the classifications systems are still struggling with how to incorporate material about Islam. 

Case Studies Demonstrating RFID, Self-Check and Materials Handling Best Practices

One of my clients requested that I put together some case studies that would demonstrate Best Practices for implementing RFID, self-check, and automated materials handling. I was able to put together two excellent examples of how to do it right. 

Johnson County Case Study

This case study was written based on a document prepared by JCL staff after their RFID implementation. It was their own evaluation of the process so it includes a description of things they did right and what they could have done better.  It provides great information on how to plan and manage the implementation and includes useful and impressive outcome metrics.

MidContinent Library System Case Study

This case study was written based on telephone interviews with the staff.  They describe another excellent process for implementing automated materials handling and then RFID and self-check. Even though I recommend implementing RFID before AMH, this process worked well for them and they are now achieving 90% self-check use systemwide. 

Feasibility Analysis and Procurement for Central Automated Materials Handling for Couriers

Peninsula Library System (PLS) is a consortium of nine libraries providing. PLS hosts a shared integrated library system (Sierra) and provides delivery services to 41 locations daily. PLS asked Lori Ayre to provide a feasibility analysis for implementing an automated materials handling system to replace the manual sorting done by couriers.  

Ayre evaluated the delivery volume, materials movement patterns, courier sorting, presorting done at the libraries, delivery turnaround times, and other aspects of the operation.  She provided the PLS Council with several options for consideration including adding a smaller sorter that would operate two waves of sorting, a larger sorter for sorting all material in one wave, providing batch check-in of incoming deliveries at the libraries, and adding an additional delivery day on the weekends.

Charleston County Public Library RFID and AMH Consultation

In November of 2014, Charleston county residents passed a $108.5 million referen-dum to address the Library’s building and technological deficiencies. The Library then sought the services of an architectural/engineering firm to develop a program guide manual for the subsequent Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) Capital Improve-ment Project (CIP) that would affect all 16 outlets of the CCPL system. Lori Ayre of The Galecia Group was included in the proposal submitted by McMillan Pazdan Smith to provide guidance related to RFID, automated materials handling, and workflow optimization. 

The CIP project includes building five new library buildings as well as a new Operations Center. In addition, virtually every one of the other branches would be remodeled. The scope of the original engagement included developing guide specifications for certain building systems including security, access, A-V, RFID and product standards for other library items. 

Once the program guide had been completed, Ayre was hired by Charleston County in order to assist the County in finalizing RFID and AMH product specifications and help-  ing the staff to re-envision how service delivery could be changed with the help of self-service and materials handling technologies. Ayre also developed the scope of services that would be used to identify suitable AMH and RFID vendors.

RFID and Automated Materials Handling Consultation for LINCC Consortium

Worked with LINCC to assess materials handling processes, systems, and facilities at member library locations as well as LINCC headquarters. Scope of work includes facilitating a process to guide procurement decisions, making recommendations related to implementing RFID and AMH as a cooperative and guiding the procurement process starting with drafting the RFP and concluding with a negotiated contract with vendor(s).

Library Communication Framework Launched with Support of 3M, Bibliotheca, D-Tech, Innovative and SirsiDynix

BIC (Book Industry Communication) today officially launched the Library Communication Framework (LCF).  BIC is an independent UK organization that is "all about the book supply chain - both physical and digital, in retail and in libraries."  

Why should we care about something that BIC launches?  We should care because we all share many ILS and RFID vendors including 3M, Bibliotheca, D-Tech, Innovative and SirsiDynix.  And all of these vendors (and more) have signed on, and we want to support them for doing so while making sure they follow through with that commitment.

Library RFID and AMH Consultation

Wide range of consulting services related to RFID and automated materials handling including analysis of 33 of the Library’s 37 outlets, recommendations for AMH configurations at each location as well as identification of impediments to using AMH or RFID, cost-benefit analyses, market analysis of RFID and AMH vendors, case studies demonstrating best practices, and presentation of findings from study and recommendations.

RFID and Materials Handling Consultation and Procurement

Consultation with Carlsbad City Library to evaluate their three branches for the purpose of upgrading their RFID and materials handling system. They had legacy tags (not compliant with current standards) and a very old sorter at one location. They were looking for help with options for upgrading their system while preserving their investment as much as possible.