[Part of a series of posts encouraging libraries to “Expect More” from their technologies and to squeeze all the value they deserve from every technology they implement.]
All too often, public libraries are caught up in thinking that they “should” be doing inventory of their collection but simply can’t afford the time and effort it requires. Let it go! If the goal is to improve your catalog’s accuracy and relieve the frustration of shelf searches for missing items, shift the paradigm instead to shelf management. Shelf management relies on frequent scanning of the collection with a handheld RFID wand wirelessly connected in real time to the ILS (note: the method requires RFID tags in all materials). A single pass of the shelves flags any exception statuses (trace, lost, missing, claimed returned, still checked out, in transit, etc.) while improving the accuracy of your online catalog.
What are the other positive results of shelf management?
1.) Instead of printing reports or lists for manual shelf checks, rely on exception statuses to flag materials when the shelves are scanned.
2.) Emphasize to staff that any materials not located while pulling holds or checking the shelves for patrons must be set into trace status. When they understand that this doesn’t result in longer printed reports, they will buy into shelf management through exception statuses.
3.) Skip the awkward steps to create and upload lists into a handheld wand for shelf checks. With real-time exception status checks, there are no lists to load or process.
4.) Status checks with the handheld wand are simple — turn on the wand, select two menu options and start scanning. Any level of staff will quickly feel comfortable with shelf scanning.
5.) Materials pulled from the shelves in exception statuses are reviewed and the exception status resolved (checked in, waived, deleted, transported, etc.) so the catalog will accurately reflect the item’s location.
6.) Any materials still associated with patron records are reclaimed and removed from the patron’s record — netting positive public relations!
7.) An added bonus during shelf scanning will be finding materials that were deleted at some point in the past. The RFID tag will still be active on the item and will be reported as “Not on File” by the ILS — after which the library can reinstate the item in the catalog or process it for discard.
8.) Selectors can create “weed” lists using the ILS and batch change the items into an exception status. The next time (or any time) a scan is done, the items can be pulled for weeding.
9.) Scan any section of the collection on any schedule — no need to scan sequentially and there is no time-sensitive deadline.
10.) Patrons will appreciate that any materials that have gone astray are being proactively searched on every shelf in the library, not just in a call number area. And staff will feel confident speaking to patrons about materials on their records that have not been found.
While handheld wands can certainly perform a traditional inventory, the results are immediately out of date. Instead, spend staff less time with far better results by scanning and correcting exceptions to continuously improve the online catalog.
For more information from Gretchen Freeman about how your library can improve shelf-management results, email firstname.lastname@example.org.