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System Director's Report:

March 2005

Talking Points

At our last meeting, Joan Wheeler asked for some talking points concerning public library system aids. They are included as a separate attachment to this report. Timing is important, since the issue could come up before Joint Finance almost anytime now. Mark Ibach is coordinating our advocacy efforts in this area.

The Library Emporium

We have now reached the one-year anniversary of the Library Emporium (which, at least this week, if you enter the phrase into Google, is still the top hit!) Troy Baumann has written a very nice one-page précis of the first year successes of the enterprise, which is also attached.

New Directions for Delivery

The best news is that all the injured employees I mentioned to you at our last meeting are healing well. What with the truck going over the embankment, falls on the ice, and the flu going around, its been quite a winter. We are still renting a replacement truck rather than purchasing a new one, because Bob and Bruce are working on costing out a new pattern for service in the metropolitan area. The growth of customer demand at the Madison branches and several of the major nearby libraries continues to be so great, that if we continue to do things as we do them now, we will eventually have to undertake several route splits to cope with the increasing volume. Each of these will require the purchase of a new truck, the hiring of an additional driver, etc. This is very costly in the long run, and without substantial additional system aid, we would have no choice but to either seek additional funding from the libraries or find a way to cut off remote customer access to at least certain popular materials. Fortunately, Bob and Bruce have a better idea. They are exploring the concept of purchasing a much larger truck with a lift, developing a rolling cart methodology for sorting and transferring items, and combining routes with at least two drivers on board at all times to handle the load. This would require a substantial up front system investment in equipment as well as the cooperation of member libraries to enhance the sorting process, but just might enable us to cope effectively with constantly increasing patron demand for some time to come. If only our member libraries didn't offer such great service…. In any case, this whole idea is in a very formative stage, so watch this space for further details.


When we went over the annual report at our last meeting, someone pointed out that we listed the names of only four of our seven counties under the county heading in the library board section. Despite Phyllis' best attempts at explaining the situation on the spot, I became confused and said I would look into the matter later. After the meeting, Phyllis reminded me that three of our counties (Adams, Dane, and Portage) operate either libraries or library services, and are thus listed in the library section of the report. Only those four counties (Columbia, Green, Sauk, and Wood) that do not operate libraries or library services directly should be listed in the county section. Thus the report is correct. I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out how to tie my shoes. I'll catch on sooner or later.

Interlibrary Loan

How and why South Central changed its primary methodology of handling interlibrary loan over from WISCAT to OCLC has been a topic of discussion around the state. We have been asked to present a session on this issue at the upcoming Wisconsin Association of Public Librarians (WAPL) conference in May, and I have recently completed a brief article on the subject for the publication "WAPL Communique." The text of that article is also attached.

One report and three attachments… That's more than enough for now. See you on April 11th.

Public Library System Aids Talking Points

The South Central Library System, through its 52 member public libraries, provides four primary services to the 750,000 residents of its seven counties.

" First among these is resource sharing. In 2004, SCLS member libraries loaned more than 2 million books and other library materials to each other to fill requests from area residents. These "interlibrary loans" represented an estimated value of $40 million worth of material which area residents freely utilized, but which their own local libraries did not have to purchase separately.

" Second is shared automation. The vast savings enabled by interlibrary cooperation and resource sharing are only possible if area residents can easily identify and order the materials they require. LINK, our share automated system, makes this possible, and is also the means by which our member libraries check out more than 8 million additional books and other library materials from their own shelves directly to their own local patrons. This direct circulation represents millions of additional dollars in savings to local taxpayers who may freely use the informational materials they need without having to purchase them individually.

" Third is delivery. Resource sharing only works if materials can be efficiently delivered to whoever has requested them. In 2004, well over 4 million items were delivered and returned to member libraries by our fleet of trucks, thus turning the vast cost savings possible through extensive resource sharing into a practical reality.

" Fourth is expertise. Use of new and advanced technologies requires extensive training, both for librarians and for the public at large. Furthermore, libraries share many common needs for expertise (for instance, building consultation) that are wasteful to duplicate on a local basis. The South Central Library System attempts to provide its member libraries with the expertise they require to offer the best possible service to the citizens of Wisconsin.

For many years public library system aids have been inadequate to fund these four system services. At this time, system member public libraries contribute more than $1.7 million to South Central to help support automation, delivery, and access to shared on-line databases. This sum represents almost as much as the total of aids currently provided by the state, and yet is completely inadequate to meet rising service demands. Over the last decade resource sharing has increased tenfold, and growth of public demand for this service continues to increase.

Today we are in crisis. Some of our member libraries have already announced plans to close their doors to Wisconsin residents who wish to use their libraries but who live outside our system borders. Without additional funding we must soon cut off unrestricted public access to many of the materials listed in our shared LINK system. Residents of rural areas and small communities will suffer most from this action, but local dollars are no longer available to make up funding shortfalls. Wisconsin statutes contain a target for system aids of 13% of local library expenditures. Today the state funds systems at only slightly more than half that amount. We critically need system funding to be increased to 10% of local expenditures now, simply to continue the services we currently offer.

Program Costs

" Statutory target is 13% (costs $45.3 million for all 17 Wisconsin Public Library Systems over the biennium).
" AB 100 (the Governor's proposed budget) provides funding at 8% level ($30.4 million over the biennium).
" Proposed 10% level would enable us to continue to provide current services faced with growing public demand ($38 million over the biennium)

The Library Emporium

Library Emporium's Anniversary
The Library Emporium celebrated its one-year anniversary March 1, 2005. We have experienced growth in the number of active participants-38 currently-and in total sales of submitted items as well, returning over $9,000 in proceeds to libraries statewide. The Emporium has received local support for our operation and has brought international exposure to the Wisconsin libraries.
Because of our particular mission, many customers visit our online eBay store repeatedly and search our listings prior to those of other for-profit companies. We have received positive feedback from over 950 individual customers.

New Item Submission Guideline
During the year we tested the online market and studied the purchasing trends of the modern eBay patron to better determine what items hold the most promise for successful sale. We have crafted new item submission guidelines that we encourage customers to follow for the best possible sales. As we reduce the number of items that cannot be listed, the Emporium will become more economical and efficient for everyone.

WLA Conference Oct. 25-28, 2005
We will be attending the WLA conference offering promotional materials, onsite item selection tutorials, and delivery network maps and information. If you are interested in fliers and promotional tools prior to the conference, contact Troy at the Library Emporium.

Sales Highlights
With over 1,500 items sold and shipped around the world, many libraries have seen the benefits of the Emporium services. We wanted to point out some success stories from the past 12 months.

" La Crosse Public Libraries-1,000 Days in the Arctic (hardcover, 1899)-$212.50
" Monona Public Library-Achievement In Photo Engraving (1928) - $158.00
" Monticello Public Library-The Golden Child (German Antique Book) -$389.50
" UW Memorial Library-Arts of Asia Magazine Collection-$282.50
" Seeley G. Mudd Library Lawrence University-Barlow Mineral Book-$93.78
" Black Earth Public Library-Cook's Illustrated Set-$102.67
" Deerfield Public Library-16MM Projector-$101.99
" Prairie du Sac Public Library-Digital Cameras (2) $208.06
" McMillan Public Library-George Washington Hardcover Set-$172.50
" Monroe Public Library-The Gibson Book 2-Volume Set-$81.01
" Sauk City Public Library-Harvard Classics Set-$250.00
" Kilbourn Public Library, Wisconsin Dells-Harvard Classics Set-$299.99
" Angie W. Cox P.L., Pardeeville -Heath's Counterfeit Detector (1870)-$162.50
" Rock Springs Public Library-Nancy Drew Mystery Set-$101.89
" SCLS Foundation-Panasonic Video Camera-$150.33
" Deforest Public Library-Robert E. Lee Biography 4 Vol. Set-$137.50
" Columbus Public Library-Sherlock Homes Limited Set-$112.50
" McFarland Public Library-War of the Rebellion 1976 Set-$499.99
" Wisconsin Veteran's Museum-War of the Rebellion 1890 Set-$799.99
" Jane Morgan P.L., Cambria -Xena Warrior Princess VHS Set-$79.99

Direct Email:
The Ebay Store:
Emporium Website:
Submission Guidelines:
The Library Emporium
Troy Baumann, Emporium manager
1(800) 209-8672, (608) 266-4809

From WISCAT to OCLC: the SCLS Side of the Story

The South Central Library System (SCLS) serves more than 760,000 residents in seven counties. Although many think of us as highly urban, in fact, 26 of our 52 libraries are in communities of less than 3,000, with the smallest having a population of 324. Most of our member public libraries (including that community of 324) are full participants in our LINK shared automated system. In 2004 the LINK system handled more than 2 million interlibrary transactions among our member libraries (and on behalf of all the libraries of all kinds in our system area, whether they are automated or not.) We were able to cope with this immense volume primarily because the LINK system reduces interloan to a circulation and delivery function, and does not require the intervention of specialized interlibrary loan staff.

In addition to these LINK based transactions, in 2004 SCLS received more than 37,000 traditional interloan requests from outside our system area, and placed just over 17,000 requests on behalf of our own customers. This process was primarily conducted by the talented interloan staff at our resource library (Madison Public). Although these requests represented less than 3% of our total interloan volume, each of them cost many times as much as a LINK based transaction, and that is the root of our problem.

WISCAT currently operates without real interloan protocols. We are often asked for heavily reserved high demand materials. Although we cannot honor these requests, we must process them anyway. Also, requests do not stop after a few libraries turn them down, but are instead referred indefinitely. When a bestseller such as the DaVinci Code is requested, unless or until it is filled, that request stops at each and every library that owns it. This can force hundreds of libraries to handle a request that may never be filled anyway. We brought these issues to DLTCL, but were advised that since many smaller libraries were happy with the status quo, no changes were contemplated at that time.

These practices make life easier for borrowing libraries. For a major lender, however, they can spell disaster. To top it off, patron initiated interloan is now in the process of experimental deployment. If these experiments were conducted with both borrowers and lenders participating voluntarily, we would have little problem with the concept. However, only the borrowers are voluntary. Everyone else is a lender, whether they want to be or not. We heard one system testify that they have a patron who, until they asked him to stop, was trying to place up to 50 requests a day. There are several million library patrons in Wisconsin. For the borrowing patron this is a great service. For a major lender, uncontrolled patron initiated borrowing may quickly become insupportable.

Our local customers need many items not found in Wisconsin. To fill these requests, we have used the OCLC interloan subsystem for some time. Our use of OCLC began to grow when the state had to cut back on their brokerage of requests to out of state libraries, and expanded further during the period when the state level interloan contracts were essentially shut down. We found the methodology to be much less labor intensive than WISCAT, and of course, OCLC is not limited to the boundaries of Wisconsin. The final straw that caused our changeover from WISCAT to OCLC, however, came late in 2004. Our resource library advised us that the increase in incoming requests, especially requests that probably should never have been sent in the first place, would require significant additional staff to handle. We estimate that staying with WISCAT rather than shifting to OCLC would have cost us an additional $100,000. We simply could not afford this, so we turned to unlimited use of OCLC as the cheaper and more effective alternative. We are by no means the first library agency to do this. As one resource library director said, "That ship left the harbor a long time ago, when the academic libraries changed over to OCLC." For better or for worse, Wisconsin has two competing systems for doing long distance interloan, and this situation may well continue for the foreseeable future.

Our choice has consequences. Since we no longer use WISCAT, we do not clear all these holdings before going out of state. Of course, since DLTCL frequently goes out of state in preference to paying for Wisconsin's contractual resources, we suspect that neither do they. Some public library systems, those that are not lenders on OCLC, cannot accept requests through this medium. Some others that are listed as lenders on OCLC have chosen not to accept our requests anyway. In both cases, however, when requests are referred to us (largely on a last resort basis) by Reference and Loan, we have chosen to fill them anyway. We plan to continue to do so. Reference and Loan is only willing to accept requests from us via OCLC for items in their own collection. We are therefore cut off from the benefits of the state level contracts. This is unfortunate.

That's where we are. Now we must look to the future. A committee of SRLAAW worked for more than a year to come up with a future direction for interloan in Wisconsin. The committee recommended an OCLC model, based on the state of Illinois (the SILC project), and this concept was overwhelmingly endorsed by SRLAAW. The recommendation was OCLC specific because the committee realized that we need to argue less about new hubcaps for the vehicle we already own, and instead turn our attention to a whole new kind of transportation for the future. Several states have already adopted an OCLC model quite successfully, and Illinois has devised ways to affordably include all libraries of all kinds and sizes in their project. Just trying to layer OCLC service onto the WISCAT model, however, will not work. We need a new way of doing business, which the Illinois model provides. In the same vein, the WiLS board is currently gathering OCLC costs to establish good prices for everyone for the same kind of products that many academic libraries and SCLS are already using. Perhaps the answer for Wisconsin is for each library agency to use what works best for them, and what they can afford. This leaves Reference and Loan in the key role of intermediating requests between the methodologies. This is a role quite in keeping with both their statutory function and their long and distinguished history. It is one I hope they will undertake.

To make a long story short, SCLS still intends to share freely with the rest of the Wisconsin library community, but through a methodology that meets the needs of our own customers as well as our own resource library. Simply put, some libraries have said they cannot afford to shift over to OCLC. We couldn't afford not to.