Physical Delivery of Library Materials Webinar Q&A

Below are listed questions that were submitted during the NISO webinar, "It’s in the Mail: Improving the Physical Delivery of Library Resources," held May 12, 2010. Answers from the presenters will be added shortly.


  • Keynote Presentation
    Lori Bowen Ayre, Library Technology Consultant and Project Manager, The Galecia Group
  • NISO's Physical Delivery of Library Resources Working Group
    Diana Sachs-Silveira, Virtual Reference Manager, Tampa Bay Library Consortium
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Physical Delivery of Library Materials
    Scherelene Schatz, MLS, New Jersey State Library

Questions and Answers

  1. A comment: Michigan Evergreen and Indiana Evergreen are not combining as of now.

  2. Why do you need an automated sorter to have batch check-in? Why can't you implement technology with manual sorters (hand-held barcode scanners) that does the same thing?

  3. Lori, do you have any data available to show how you've determined that AMH throughput potential is in the area of 1,500 items per labor hour? The recent article on New York Metropolitan's automated sorter indicated that the sorter handles 46,000-47,000 items over the course of a 7-hour period with 14 employees. This comes to a 480-item throughput per labor hour and is consistent with research I've done of other AMH installs at other central sort sites around the country. While I see all the benefits this brings for tracking and on the library end, I haven't seen it as having an ROI on the central sort side. Thank you!

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre):
    I probably should have said 1,200 items per person, and what I was referring to is how fast a staff person can induct material into a Lyngsoe sorter. Lyngsoe sorters are rated at 2,500 items per hour; however, people cannot induct things that fast. The speed with which a staff person can induct material onto a Lyngsoe sorter is around 1,200 items per hour (per Lyngsoe). Patrons induct material more slowly since they are spending more time reading instructions and orienting the material and aren’t as practiced at staff… figure 650 items per hour. You can have multiple induction points that will determine your actual throughput. Five staff induction points, for example, will process a whole lot more material than one staff induction and one patron induction. So actual throughout depends on a lot of things, but is going to be limited ultimately by the machines capability (e.g., 2,500 items per hour in this example).

    In your example about NY Public, you are defining “throughput per labor hour” a bit differently than I was. Your approach is valid, but if you are broadening throughput per hour to include all staff associated with the sorter, I would argue that you have to broaden your analysis to see the effects elsewhere. For example, how fast do those items get back on the shelves now? How much faster is your turnaround and how much more material is available to patrons more of the time? How many fewer interruptions are there resulting from backlogs? I believe ROI studies need to take into account a lot more factors than how fast the item gets checked in. If you just compare people checking material in versus machines checking material in, you will miss the boat. Check out a couple of studies I have done for clients ( if you are interested in how I evaluate ROI.
  4. If we have yet implemented RFID should we wait for UHF?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): 
    If you have a business reason to move to RFID now then I would not wait. UHF is being evaluated and it may be preferable to HF... or not. It's too early to tell, but it is certainly far enough down the road that I wouldn't wait. The other thing is that the standards are all based on HF tags and there are many benefits to using a standard tag (once we finally have them!)

  5. Use of regional couriers will replace library-run delivery services using drivers that are library staff and library owned or leased vehicles. Do you agree?

  6. Do you see any movement towards a loan model that supports delivery directly to patron homes for a fee?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): 
    I know of one library in California that is experimenting with the Netflix model (up to three items can be out at any time, and there is no loan period). As we deal with more digital material, the loan models will be required to change and this could make us rethink the loan policies for physical material. 

  7. You indicated that you believe that use of regional couriers will replace library run delivery services using drivers on library staff and library owned or leased vehicles? Can you predict a timeframe?

    Lori Ayre Answered: I'm not sure I would say regional couriers will replace library run delivery services so much as I believe the work of couriers (library run or regional) need to start addressing the workload in the libraries and not CREATING more work for libraries. This can be done with things like these batch check-in features and doing sorting in ways that doesn't require library staff to fill out routing slips and rubberband material.
  8. Is there an approximate cost for these RFID sort centers?

  9. Is there such a thing as a passive UHF tag?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): Yes.

  10. Do you see any movement towards a loan model that supports delivery directly to patron homes for a fee?

    Lori Ayre Answered: I do. I think we should be offering home delivery service for the people who wouldn't otherwise use the library. Ideally, we tie that in with USPS bulk rate services to keep the cost down. Simply by grouping 10 packages going out to the same zip code, we can get the postal rate of the item down dramatically. This would be a an easy thing to do (sort by zip for home delivery) with our central sort operation (whether it is manual, automated, or semi-automated).

  11. Why do you need an automated sorter to have batch check-in? Why can't you implement technology with manual sorters (hand-held barcode scanners) that does the same thing?

  12. I think we really get the benefit from batch check-in if we can build the tote manifest automatically, otherwise it is just putting the work on the central sort side instead of the library side (which is good too but not AS good). I think it is better with an automated sorter or even a semi-automated sorter (e.g., put-to-light).

  13. We tried requesting lender-to-patron and patron-to-lender delivery cutting out the borrowing library. Most lenders disregarded our request and mailed to us anyway. Solution?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): 
    Some libraries feel uncomfortable getting out from the middle as that is how it has worked with ILL for so many years. I think as long as we think "ILL" instead of resource-sharing, this type of thinking will prevail.

  14. We have a mixed service Academic and Publics - Academic library packaging requirements are stricter than Public libraries. How do you appease both?

  15. Will you also be discussing shipping ILL lending items to patrons from other institutions (versus sending local items to local patrons)?

  16. Just a comment: We've been doing home delivery for 20 years, paying for both the delivery and return service (we are a distance education university). We have had very few losses; it has been very reliable.

  17. Has there been any testing of automated machines for after-hours book pick-up (as opposed to return drop-boxes) at libraries as an alternative to the convenience of home delivery? Some sort of book-dispensing kiosk.

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): Yes, there are products on the market that can do this. The MK Sorting LibDispenser is one such product. The tricky part with these systems is you have to load the specific items into the unit, and that is pretty labor intensive.

  18. For Gloucester county, is the Total Circulation amount for the MailLit service specifically, or their overall circulation?

  19. For the direct-to-patron service, do the patrons have specified due dates for return?

  20. What are your loss statistics?

  21. When using the Endicia software, does the librarian weigh the items to be sent out?

  22. Do you know if Endicia uses SIP2 or other standard(s) to interface with the ILS, and do you know which ILS the library uses?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): 
    Endicia does not use SIP2. It needs to receive info in a CSV format or something equally simple. There is no two-way communication.

  23. Is the circulation period longer for mail?

  24. Has an analysis been made about the cost of performing home delivery? Including labor?

  25. I wonder if the 20% of items not picked up carries over into the home delivery. I.e., do 20% of them sit untouched by the patron or does this noticeably increase the likelihood of use?

  26. Do you have cost information for RFID and HF tags? What about Endicia software costs? Costs associated with mail services? Do you have suggestions for where I could find this information?

    Answer (Lori Bowen Ayre): 
    I have cost information about RFID tags and related equipment, but it varies pretty wildly between vendors and depending on when you ask the question.Talk to someone who recently went through a procurement and get their numbers. At this point, the tag costs are not the primary issue (they are consistently now under 25 cents for standard book tags), but the equipment can still be very expensive. Or do you own RFQ, just don’t forget to include everything you’ll need to replace and upgrade.