A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Getting New Items into the Hands of Patrons A Public Library Efficiency Evaluation

by Linda Speas on February 25, 2013

In today’s fast paced society, people want convenience and immediate access; it is no longer acceptable to have to wait for any type of information or entertainment. Everyone wants it now. The time consumers have to digest, absorb, and ultimately consume information is diminishing.1 Libraries are finding themselves competing with everyday content services like Google, Barnes & Noble, and Netflix, and to stay in this information-access market, libraries are shifting their services to better meet the needs of the new generation of users.2

Because patrons expect this level of immediate access to information,an important aspect of providing outstanding library service is making new materials available to patrons in a timely manner. Even with the increased demand for e-books, there are still many library patrons who prefer print books and they expect to see the new best sellers on the library shelves the same day as in the bookstores.

This demand for immediate access has become evident to the staff at Colorado’s Arapahoe Library District over the last few years. The Library Materials Services department (responsible for processing and cataloging all new library materials) formerly received complaints from patrons and staff about the length of time for new items to become accessible on the library shelves. Patrons were asking why the latest John Grisham mystery or Janet Evanovich novel had been available at their local bookstore for months and it was still showing in the library catalog as “in processing.” The complaints from patrons and staff caused the library administration to closely examine the exact turnaround time for new materials being processed through the Library Materials Services department. The average turnaround time was discovered to be almost two months from when the items were delivered to the department until they were sent to the libraries. A library cannot remain relevant in today’s fast-paced society if materials are not made available to patrons right away. An overall efficiency evaluation was deemed necessary and conducted to examine the workflows in the Library Materials Department, improve the current processes, and deliver new items to patrons in a timely manner. The entire project lasted ten months, from March through December 2010, and the results exceeded the expectations of staff and patrons.

The efficiency evaluation team consisted of five members: the director of Library Services, the manager of Library Materials Services, the supervisor of Acquisitions and Receiving, the supervisor of Cataloging and Processing, and the administrative assistant for the department. The Library Materials department manager was the lead for the project. As a guide to the project, the team utilized the ALA publication Staffing for Results: A Guide to Working Smarter, by Goodrich and Mayo.3 The practical applications in the book were used to complete the process analysis, to identify specific goals, and to define the success of the project. Reducing the turnaround time for new materials to fourteen days or less was the primary objective for the team. The methodology for reaching the goal included three steps: (1) review the literature to see what other libraries were doing; (2) find peer libraries that had already achieved this goal and research their processes; and (3) evaluate the current workflow throughout the Library Materials Services department. The combined data was analyzed and used to design a plan for improving the overall efficiency of the department.

This article outlines the entire efficiency project, including a summary of the identified problem, the impact on staff and patrons, and a discussion of the team’s objectives. The methodology and findings from the three steps of the project are presented, including the overview of the literature, the information from peer libraries, and the department evaluation. The efficiency plan that the team developed based on the findings is presented in detail, followed by a discussion of the outcomes of the project, what the team learned, and what other libraries can learn from the project. As a conclusion, the author encourages other library administrators to undertake similar projects in order to improve services to patrons.


Arapahoe Library District (ALD) is located south of Denver, Colorado, and serves a total population of more than 200,000. The library district consists of eight branch libraries of various sizes and a separate administration facility. The library district welcomes close to two million patrons and lends almost five million items per year. The Library Materials Services department at Arapahoe Library District is responsible for collection development, acquisitions, receiving, cataloging, processing, interlibrary loan, and courier deliveries for the entire district.

What Was the Problem?

In 2009, the average turnaround time for new materials at ALD was fifty-five days for non-rush items and fifteen days for rush items. A rush item was defined as any item that had one or more patron holds. Because orders were placed around six months before items were published, and patrons could immediately start placing holds on pre-release titles, more than half of all new items had at least one hold attached by the time the physical items arrived. As more and more new items had holds attached, more and more rush items had to be prioritized on a daily basis, and as a result the low priority items were left in the queue for a lengthy period. By the first quarter in 2010, the average turnaround time was eighty-seven days for new items.

This delay in getting new materials out to the libraries had serious customer service implications: New releases were not available in the libraries by street date, patrons were not getting access to new materials, and patrons were waiting for months for an item on hold. Staff were required to search through numerous carts of items when patrons called to find out the status of a specific item, and the featuring of new materials on the website was delayed because patrons became upset (understandably so) when items were featured but not actually available. The result was a stressful work environment with a constant backlog.

The Project

Once the problem was identified, a project team was formed to address the issue. The manager for the Library Materials Services department was assigned as the project lead, and she worked with the director of Library Services, the two department supervisors, and the department’s administrative assistant, throughout the project. The first priority for the team was to decide on a specific and measurable goal for the project. Based on patron feedback, the team knew they had to improve the amount of time required to get new materials out to the libraries; however, no one knew what a realistic turnaround time should be for a library of this size. Therefore the initial objective was somewhat vague: “To improve the turnaround time for new materials.” As the team started working on the project and gathering information from peer libraries, the objective became more specific and measurable. The project goal was finally defined as the following: “To achieve an average turnaround time of fourteen days or less for all new library materials, from the time they are delivered to the Library Materials department to the time they are sent to the libraries.”

Step 1: Overview of the Literature

As the first step for gathering data, the team reviewed the library literature. The review of the literature demonstrated that several public libraries had experienced similar problems and found a number of different solutions to address them.

At the Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, a library with twenty branches, staff is responsible for the majority of processing and cataloging in-house, and they have achieved a turnaround time of forty-eight hours for new materials.4 The library improved from an average turnaround time of seventeen days to forty-eight hours over the course of a year. They also reduced their staff from 55 to 32.88 FTE (full-time equivalent) during the same time frame. Some of the efficiencies that were put in place at Columbus Metropolitan Library have already been implemented at ALD over the last few years: centralized selection and ordering of materials, tracking the turnaround time for all items, and standardized genre labeling. Some of the other efficiencies mentioned in this article included using a conveyor belt to transport materials between stations and using a whiteboard to track how long materials are in the department. All processing was also moved to the front of the audiovisual (AV) materials or to the back of the books. The process used to identify efficiencies included charting the existing workflow process in detail, asking staff to brainstorm ideas for improving efficiencies, evaluating different outsourcing options, and measuring tasks according to Staffing for Results.

A significant backlog of materials to be cataloged and processed was eliminated at the St. Charles Public Library District in Illinois by implementing numerous efficiencies in the department over the course of a year.5 Staff time was reduc ed from 10 to 8.7 FTEs while experiencing a 49 percent increase of new materials. This library utilized a floor plan to look at the physical configuration of the department and a flowchart to evaluate the processing and cataloging. The main problems that were identified were as follows: redundant and unnecessary operations, inefficient editing of records in the catalog, lack of cataloging tools, insufficient supervision, and lack of written procedures. Some of the implemented efficiencies included editing records by screen editing instead of paper editing, creating and maintaining a cataloging decision manual, creating and utilizing cataloging cheat sheets, providing proper training, purchasing cataloging and technological tools, establishing the department’s mission statement and goals, and recognizing the hard work of the staff.

Denver Public Library (DPL) went through a major reorganization of their technical services department between 2002 and 2004.6 DPL moved from a six-week turnaround to a forty-eight-hour turnaround, and they reduced almost a third of their staff. During this process, DPL reviewed advancements in technology, vendor capabilities and outsourcing opportunities, as well as staffing levels and talent. They started outsourcing more processing and cataloging to Ingram and Midwest Tape and in 2005 received almost 50 percent of their materials shelf-ready.

For the team at ALD, the most useful findings from the literature included discovering the Staffing for Results, which was selected as the guiding tool for the project. The team also incorporated the idea to chart the existing workflow in the department and to involve department staff by having them brainstorm and contribute their suggestions to the project. The information in the literature also encouraged the team to explore additional outsourcing opportunities with vendors in order to receive more materials shelf ready. The literature also confirmed the importance of a unified mission statement/objective for the department.

Several of the ideas mentioned in the literature had already been implemented at ALD including centralized selection and ordering of materials, tracking the turnaround time for all items, standardized genre labeling, and moving all materials processing to the front of items. Some ideas from the literature were deemed as not applicable to the situation at ALD, including using a conveyor belt to transport materials between work stations. The team decided that this type of tool was not necessary based on the existing department layout and the volume of incoming materials.

Step 2: Gathering Information from Other Libraries

The administrators at ALD have great relationships with leadership and staff at other public libraries in Colorado. The library administrators are frequently communicating and sharing ideas with each other; therefore, many aspects of the libraries are somewhat similar, including materials ordering processes, staffing structure, and overall workflow. The ALD team decided that for this project it would be beneficial to identify libraries outside of Colorado to get some fresh ideas and perspectives. The objective was to find peer libraries that were similar to ALD in regards to the size of the collection and collection budget, annual circulation, and staffing levels. It was also important that the identified libraries had a centralized collection development department and had successfully achieved a turnaround time of two weeks or less for new materials. The team followed the following five steps to identify these libraries and gather the necessary data:

  1. Identified and collected data about public libraries across the country.
  2. Interviewed staff at the identified peer libraries to find out their turnaround time for new materials.
  3. Narrowed down the list of libraries to the ones that appeared to have implemented the most efficient processes.
  4. Conducted more in-depth interviews with staff at the selected libraries.
  5. Visited libraries with the most efficient practices and studied their operation in detail.

The decision to visit three libraries was based on a research process that involved using Bibliostat Connect (this is a statistics product offered by Baker & Taylor) to identify peer libraries across the country based on the following criteria:

  • collection size (more than 400,000 compared to ALD’s 583,126);
  • circulation per capita (greater than fifteen compared to ALD’s 22.35);
  • collection expenditures per capita (greater than $6 compared to ALD’s $9.77);
  • at least four branches (compared to ALD’s eight); and
  • serving legal population size 100,000 to 400,000 (compared to ALD’s 200,000).

Based on the above criteria, nineteen libraries were identified. City libraries and county libraries were excluded since their budget and staffing structure is generally very different from a library district that is funded through a property tax mill levy. Libraries that had one main branch that was significantly larger than the main library at ALD were also excluded. This narrowed the list down to seven. Two additional libraries were excluded because they did not have centralized collection development. The team then contacted the remaining five libraries––as it happened two were located in Ohio and three in Maryland. A five-question survey was emailed to the collection managers at the five libraries. The survey asked about the staffing structure of the department and the total number of FTEs, what percentage of processing and/or cataloging was outsourced, how vendors were utilized for materials selection, the average turnaround time for new materials, and a list of the various tasks the department was responsible for. Based on the information gathered from the two libraries in Ohio it was determined that they did not fit the established criteria for the project. The information from the three Maryland libraries, especially their reported turnaround time for new materials, suggested that they may have procedures in place that could help ALD.

Next, the project lead held phone interviews with the department managers for the three libraries in Maryland. The questions in the phone interviews were the same as the initial email survey except the department managers were asked to elaborate and provide more detail about the department structure and internal processes. The most significant finding from the phone interviews was the prioritization of getting new materials out to the libraries as quickly as possible. Both Harford and Howard County libraries appeared to be very comparable libraries to ALD in terms of their budget and the number of new incoming materials. The department managers at both libraries noted that they place high priority on getting materials to the libraries by street date. Their turnover numbers were very impressive; both libraries had achieved an average turnaround of less than fourteen days for new materials. Neither library outsourced their cataloging and they had fewer staff than ALD and yet managed to get the materials out more quickly. Because of these factors, the project team felt that ALD should be able to learn from their processes and adapt them fairly seamlessly while utilizing the existing staffing levels. Two ALD team members decided to visit the three Maryland libraries to explore their processes in more detail. Table 1 shows a comparison of ALD with the three Maryland libraries that the team members visited in June 2010.7

Findings from the Maryland Libraries

Next is a summary of the findings from the visits to the three Maryland libraries. The two team members were amazed at some of the seemingly simple solutions that were discovered. The four most significant discoveries were: (1) streamlining the unpacking/receiving/invoicing process; (2) using a single stream queue for incoming materials; (3) reducing the number of direct/special orders; and (4) limiting the time spent on database maintenance tasks.

One of the most impactful findings from observing the process at the Maryland libraries was the streamlining of the unpacking, receiving, and invoicing process. By allowing the same staff to handle the entire process, extra steps were eliminated, such as moving the same items numerous times. At the Harford County (Md.) Public Library (HCPL), all deliveries were unpacked daily onto carts and then processed according to the date received. HCPL also utilized electronic invoicing and items were received and invoices posted to the Integrated Library System (ILS) by the same staff member. The second most significant discovery was the notion of using a single-stream queue for everything, strictly according to date. One of the department managers in Maryland observed, “When the majority of new items have holds on them, you end up creating exceptions each time you reprioritize the queue. This takes extra staff time and causes low priority items to sit in the queue way too long.”

A third finding from the visits was the impact that special orders can have on the entire department workflow. The team learned that several of the Maryland libraries allowed only a very limited number of direct orders from special vendors/websites and instead maximized the benefits of electronic ordering by ordering the vast majority of items from the main vendors. This minimized a number of exceptions that would require extra work from staff, from the point of placing the order to receiving it, paying the invoice, and processing and cataloging the item.

The fourth most significant discovery the team learned in Maryland was to limit database maintenance as much as possible. Database maintenance is the process of fixing problems with existing items in the library collection and includes correcting a spine label or a call number, replacing a case, or adding a subject heading to the catalog record. The department manager at one of the libraries in Maryland pointed out that the time a staff member takes to “maintain” an existing item is time that could be used to process/catalog a new item. Library staff must be much more judicious in deciding which items are worth the time and which ones are not. Patrons prioritize getting access to new items and so should library staff. Calling back library items to “perfect them” is not a good use of time. What is important is that the information in the online catalog and the spine label allows the patron to find the item in the library; as long as that is the case, database maintenance is not necessary.

Step 3: Department Evaluation

The final step for the efficiency project consisted of a detailed analysis of the current workflow of the Library Materials department. The project team at ALD used Staffing for Results to measure all processes in the department and the time spent on various tasks. During an entire month, all department staff kept a daily log of the time they spent on different tasks and also documented the detailed steps of all essential tasks in the department. Work forms 6 and 9 from the Mayo and Goodrich book were used for this part of the project. The department administrative assistant was responsible for collecting all work forms and entering the data into one main spreadsheet. The data was later analyzed by the team members to determine what the workflow looked like in the department from beginning to end, how much time was spent on each task, and whether job responsibilities were allocated logically among job families. All staff members were also encouraged to submit their suggestions for how the workflow and efficiency in the department could be improved.


The most significant findings from the department evaluation included the following: Some staff members were spending less than 10 percent on essential tasks according to their job title and job description; forty staff hours each week were spent on invoice processing; around twenty staff hours per week were spent on processing patron requests for items that the library was already planning on ordering; around eighty staff hours per month were spent on database maintenance tasks; the Receiving staff were double-checking each shelf ready item from the vendors for processing and cataloging accuracy; and the practice of ordering new materials separately from added or replacement copies was costing the department significant time and confusion. The number one suggestion from staff for how to improve the department efficiency was to start using hub labels for all discs instead of hand writing the barcodes on each disc for music CDs, DVDs, and audiobooks.

The findings are discussed in more detail below:

  1. At the time of the evaluation, ALD had three Acquisitions staff members (2.5 FTE), and each spent only 6 to 13 percent of weekly time on actual acquisitions tasks and the rest of their time was spent on various other duties. This was because several acquisitions efficiencies had been implemented over the last few years (such as placing orders electronically instead of manually), and the time that was saved had been filled with other duties. The amount of time actually saved became apparent through the department evaluation.
  2. Five different staff members performed small portions of the overall interlibrary loan function for a total workload of about forty hours per week. This is another area where changes had been implemented over the years and therefore jobs and responsibilities had evolved to the point that the work was shared among too many staff members to be efficient.
  3. One full-time staff member was dedicated to manually processing invoices. The team determined that if electronic invoicing was implemented, 60 percent of the current invoice process would be eliminated. Utilizing electronic invoicing for the main library vendors would allow the Receiving staff to manage the invoices as part of the receiving process instead of having a separate staff member enter all invoices manually into the ILS system.
  4. Staff spent forty hours each week on patron requests. The patron request form is used as a suggestion for purchase or an interlibrary loan request. When an item is purchased based on a patron request, the requesting patron is placed on the hold list to be the first person to check out the item when it arrives. The team found that many patrons used the form for the sole purpose of being the first patron on the hold list––about one third of all submitted forms were requests for best sellers and blockbuster movies, submitted many months before these items would be published. Staff spent much time tracking these requests, especially the requests placed long before an item was published. The requests also triggered the department staff to order these items outside of the normal ordering procedures, which required additional time for several staff members involved in the ordering process.
  5. Around eighty hours per month was spent on database maintenance tasks, such as changing genres, call numbers, changing cases, spine labels, and so on. This was time that could instead be utilized for processing brand new items for the collection.
  6. The team found that the process for ordering replacement copies or adding additional copies of books that were already in the collection was not efficient. All new books were ordered as shelf ready (completely processed and cataloged by the vendor) and all added and replacement copies as processed only. There were several identified problems with this process. The collection librarians had to order the books using different accounts, which caused an interruption in their workflow. Also, sometimes the popular processed-only copies arrived before the shelf-ready copies, which meant that the in-house catalogers created a catalog record for the items and that record was later overlaid by the vendor record. In these instances staff was confused, time was wasted, and outsourcing was not utilized effectively.
  7. The Receiving staff checked all outsourced items for accuracy for both cataloging and processing, requiring a significant amount of time for each delivery. This is another example of not maximizing the outsourcing that was already in place. The project team found that the number of vendor errors discovered by the receivers did not justify the amount of time spent checking each item for accuracy.
  8. Writing barcodes by hand on all discs takes several minutes for each item. The processing time for an audiobook with twenty discs could take as long as thirty minutes. The number one suggestion from the department staff was to eliminate this practice and instead use hub labels for all discs.

The Efficiency Plan

After careful analysis of all the collected data from the literature, the library visits, and the department evaluation, the project team devised an efficiency plan consisting of eleven items. The eleven items are presented below, including the resulting benefits to the department.

  1. Purchase the electronic invoicing product from the library’s ILS provider and implement with the three main vendors used by the library (Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and Midwest Tape). This saved the department forty staff hours per week.
  2. Consolidate all acquisitions tasks to one staff member. The department was able to save twenty hours per week by having one staff member oversee the entire process as opposed to three different staff members sharing the tasks. This change also allowed the team to realign job duties so that staff spent more time on essential tasks related to their job title.
  3. Minimize direct and special orders. Special orders require exceptional treatment from order to delivery, causing a significant amount of extra time for each step. Instead the department now utilizes the most efficient order process whenever possible, which means selecting and utilizing the vendors with the most streamlined ordering process.
  4. Change patron request parameters to no longer allow patrons to submit a request for an item that is not yet published. This reduced the number of requests by about a third and allowed staff to focus on actual suggestions for purchase instead of spending time manually tracking and placing holds on popular items for patrons. It also provided an opportunity to encourage patrons to place their own holds on items in the catalog.
  5. Consolidate interlibrary loan tasks under one full-time staff member. The department saved around twenty staff hours per week by having one staff member oversee the entire interlibrary loan process instead of five different staff sharing the tasks. This is another area where job duties were realigned so that staff spent more time on essential tasks according to their title and job description.
  6. Purchase more carts, unpack deliveries daily, and receive all items according to date. This eliminated the need to move and rearrange boxes several times a day, which saved significant staff time.
  7. Implement single-stream cataloging and processing (no more rush items). Because the majority of new items had holds, staff constantly reprioritized the queue, and items with no holds sat in the queue for months. With a single-stream process, staff is handling each item fewer times, and everyone knows exactly what the priorities are. This was the change where staff saw the most immediate results: As soon as the single-stream process was implemented, staff started seeing the backlog of items diminishing.
  8. Order all books shelf ready from our primary vendors. Department outsourcing increased from around 40 percent of all cataloging to 70 percent. Most of the cataloging for AV materials is still performed in-house, but almost all cataloging for books is outsourced. This change has saved time for selection, ordering, and cataloging staff.
  9. No longer double-check vendors’ work. The receivers now spend their time unpacking deliveries, receiving and sending shelf ready materials out to the libraries, and posting electronic invoices to the ILS.
  10. Start using hub labels for discs instead of hand writing on each disc. Some resistance to this was initially experienced due to the fact that ALD had previously experienced problems using hub labels; the discs had reportedly become stuck in patrons’ players. The project team asked staff at libraries that were already using the labels if they were experiencing problems, and no one reported having any issues at that time. The implementation of hub labels has saved the processing staff several hours per week (and no problems have been reported from patrons).
  11. Minimize database maintenance tasks and instead focus on processing and cataloging new items. The team helped the Library Materials Services staff redefine the purpose of cataloging and processing. The purpose is to make sure that patrons can find the items that they are interested in––in the library catalog and in the library. As long as that purpose is met, the item is good to go. Staff is cataloging for the patrons, not for other catalogers.

Project Outcomes

The outcomes of the project far superseded the original project objective of reducing the turnaround time for new materials to fourteen days or less. The department not only achieved an average turnaround time of less than five days but also saved one hundred hours of staff time, defined and aligned job descriptions with department positions more closely, and increased outsourcing. The department staff ordered and received 5,500 items more in 2011 than in 2009 while the operating budget for the department (which includes the cost for outsourcing and department salaries) has remained the same. However, the most important outcome is the benefit to the patrons––they now have access to new materials in a timely manner. Each of the outcomes is discussed in more detail below.

  1. Decreased turnaround time for new materials: By the first quarter in 2011, the average turnaround time for new materials was less than five days (compared to eighty-seven days for the same time period in 2010). The number of new items added were essentially the same for both years (around 37,000). However, in 2010 57 percent of new items were cataloged in-house, and in 2011 only 31 percent was cataloged in-house and the rest were received shelf ready (see table 2).
  2. Staff savings and realigning job duties: The project saved the department one hundred staff hours per week (2.5 FTEs), and those hours were transferred to other departments in the organization. The savings were primarily realized due to the implementation of electronic invoicing and consolidating the acquisitions and interlibrary loan tasks to fewer staff members.
  3. Increased outsourcing: 95 percent of all books are now cataloged by vendors. This implementation has eliminated confusion and double work for catalogers. Now the vendors catalog almost all the books, and most AV items are cataloged in-house.
  4. Improved service to patrons: Materials are now available in the libraries on street date, holds are fulfilled quickly, and new materials are available for patrons to browse in the libraries. Patron complaints about the length of time for new materials to get to the libraries have disappeared, and all new materials are featured prominently on the ALD website. Between 2010 and 2011, ALD saw a 25 percent increase in circulation of new books.

What Can Other Libraries Learn from This?

The most significant learning from this efficiency evaluation for the project team was the return on investment for the project. When an organization decides to embark on a large project like this where significant time and resources are invested, everyone expects to see significant results. By the time the project was completed, the results exceeded everyone’s expectations. The library administration and the project team were very satisfied with the overall outcome and the benefits to patrons, staff, and the organization as a whole.

Another significant learning was that prioritizing certain items before others can actually cause delays. The single-stream receiving/processing/cataloging queue was the one single most impactful change that the team implemented. In addition, the process of identifying and eliminating exceptions throughout the department had the most immediate impact as these changes were implemented. Each time a process was streamlined to eliminate exceptions, the entire department noticed immediate results.

One of the most unexpected things the team learned from the project was that a simple thing such as buying more book carts to be able to unpack deliveries each day can have a tremendous impact. Visiting actual libraries and observing their work space andprocess allowed the team this discovery.

What can other libraries take away from the efficiency project at ALD? The project team suggests other library administrators make note of the following:

  1. Efficiency evaluations are worth doing. They may seem daunting, but some pretty simple targeted changes can have amazing results.
  2.  You don’t have to hire a consultant to be successful. Using a guide or structured tool for the evaluation is extremely helpful for working through the process.
  3. Identify exceptions in the workflow and find ways to eliminate them.
  4. Explore outsourcing options. Talk to your materials vendors about getting materials that are most time-sensitive delivered by street date.
  5. Reach out to libraries outside your state. At some point you may yield more meaningful ideas by reaching out to libraries in another part of the country to get even more fresh ideas.

Summary and Conclusion

In 2010, ALD identified a problem with meeting patrons’ expectations of providing timely access to new materials. An efficiency evaluation team was assigned to investigate the problem and identify possible solutions. The objective at the start of the project was to reduce the turnaround time for new materials to fourteen days. A strategy composed of three steps was used to gather data to develop and implement an efficiency plan. The team used the Goodrich and Mayo publication Staffing for Results to gather and analyze the data and finally developed and implemented an efficiency plan consisting of eleven items.

Within one year of initiating the project, the department reached and surpassed the initial goal––a turnaround time of five days was achieved by April 2011. By the time the efficiency project was completed, patrons saw best sellers on the library shelves the same time as in bookstores, new books were featured on the library website, and checkouts for new books increased by 25 percent within a year. Patrons no longer complain about not having access to new materials at the library. The timing of the project was perfect; e-books are becoming more popular, and instant access to the new and popular materials is even more important to patrons. ALD is now better able to serve patrons and remain relevant in today’s fastpaced society.

This comment from one of the department staff members provides a summary of the project: “When you first presented the efficiency plan based on what you learned at other libraries you visited, the expected improvement in turnaround time almost seemed too good to be true, but I am so pleased with how well it really does work!”


  1. Liane Dietrich, “The Rise of the Impatient Consumer,” Digital Marketing, accessed April 16, 2012.
  2. Andrew Nagy, “Next-Generation Service in the Library,” Library Technology Reports 47, no. 7 (Oct. 2011): 8–10.
  3. Diane Mayo and Jeanne Goodrich, Staffing for Results: A Guide to Working Smarter (Chicago: American Library Association, 2002).
  4. Marihelen Hatcher, “On the Shelf in 48 Hours,” Library Journal 131, no 15 (Sept. 15, 2006): 30–31.
  5. Myung Gi Sung, Increasing technical services efficiency to eliminate cataloging backlogs. Public Libraries 43, no. 6 (Nov./Dec. 2004): 47–52.
  6. Jo Sarling, Denver Reengineers: By Relying More on Vendors and Technology, Jo Sarling Explains How the Denver Public Library Shifted Resources to the Public, Library Journal 130, no. 12 (July 2005).
  7. Concetta Pisano, Materials Manager and Elaine Adkins, Technical Services Supervisor, Carroll County Public Library, meeting with author, June 21, 2010; Jennifer Ralston, Materials Management Administrator and Shelby Dolan, Technical Services Manager, Harford County Public Library, meeting with author, June 22, 2010; Cindy Jones, Materials Management, Howard County Library, meeting with author, June 22, 2010.