Self-checkout delivers its best results when patrons encounter the fewest blocks or interruptions to their checkout sessions. One patron block widely used by public libraries is an “address check” to verify that a patron’s resident status based on home address is still current. Patrons changing a home address may no longer qualify for resident library services without paying a non-resident fee. The address check block is typically set to occur at a regular interval, requiring the patron to re-verify resident status. Salt Lake County Library has eliminated the need to verify home address in person by using the “National Change of Address” or NCOA database owned and maintained by the U.S. Postal Service.
The NCOA Patron Database Scrub is a data service offered through Unique Management Services, the company many public libraries use for materials recovery. Unique processes a library’s patron database against the NCOA database to verify and update home addresses. Every other year, Salt Lake County Library offloads active patron records and sends them to Unique for NCOA address verification and updates. The current cost of the NCOA Database Scrub is $150 per 10,000 records submitted. The library submits only the subset of the patron database meeting the following criteria:
Unique returns a file of updates to the patron records submitted—usually around 10% of the records. Of that 10%, 90% are patrons who have moved out of the library’s service area; 10% are patrons who have new home addresses but remain residents. Using automated scripts for the library’s Polaris ILS, new home addresses are written to the patron records that have changed. For patrons who have moved out of the service area, the library 1) updates the patron record; 2) adds an explanatory note to the record and 3) sets the card to expire in 6 weeks. Using email addresses in the patron records set to expire, the library notifies patrons that their cards will be expiring due to non-resident status—and offers them continued access to the library with an annual membership fee. Many do continue as subscribers.
The results of the NCOA database scrub include 1.) reducing staff time spent on address checks at the service desk; 2.) eliminating interruption of self-checkout sessions from this block; 3.) maintaining accurate patron home addresses on file for billing notices, statistical reports, etc.; and 4.) recruiting non-resident patrons who pay an annual fee for library cards because they live outside the service area. Salt Lake County Library has benefitted considerably from setting up the NCOA scrub to save staff time and streamline the patron’s self-checkout experience.
To learn more about the NCOA Patron Database Scrub, contact Unique Management Services or Colleen Medling at firstname.lastname@example.org.