Posted by Lori Ayre on January 26, 2007

I just came across a great post on David Lee King's blog entitled The Missing Piece of the Library Netflix Model in which David shares the fact that his library, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, mails all Hold requests to their customers automatically. If a customer wants to pick up their Holds, they have to enter their phone number in the comment box (when placing the Hold) and a staff person will call them when the item is available. Egggggs-cellent.

King reports that their library compared the costs of pulling Holds and placing them on the Holds Shelf, contacting the customer, following up on the Holds not picked up, pulling expired Holds, yada yada yada, and came up with an insignificant cost differential between just mailing the thing already. He does mention that it is a bit pricier than it used to be so maybe that differential is changing. But, let's factor in the cost of a square foot of library space before we decide it is too pricey to mail the item out directly. The amount of space being taken up with Holds Shelves is getting out of control. And depending on how the library decides to label each Hold item, it can sometimes be almost as labor intensive to hermetically seal the item for the Holds shelf (lest someone see the patron's name and the title of the book they've got on hold) as it is to throw it in an envelope and mail it out.

If the price of mailing via USPS seems too high, take a lesson from the folks at Orange County (Florida) who use their own courier service to take care of their home deliveries. They've gotten the cost of delivery down to $2.63 per item, including labor. Now, that's impressive. It's also within the range of what a person might be willing to pay to get an item delivered. My belief is that $3 is an amount most people would be willing to pay for such a convenience. So, theoretically, a library should be able to roll out fee-based home delivery at no cost to the library.