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The NetFlix Library December 9, 2006

Yes indeedy, we do in fact mail ALL HOLDS to patrons.

David Lee King

The Netflix model of movies is one that customers find convenient because it allows them to grab a position in the queue for their favorite films, have the films mailed to them, and not have to worry about late fees, since the company will not send additional films until the customer returns the prior one. With a little ( and very little) planning, customers can ensure a steady flow of movies, one a day if they need that many. Part of the same system is in place in at least one public library, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Turns out that the library has been mailing holds since the 1970′s and the patrons love it. Without the convenience of mail in holds, most of them say they would just use Amazon. A comparison study was done to see if the mailing system saved money compared to the cost of maintaining a holds shelf or section in the library. The costs savings were minimal, but present.

This model is certainly worth exploring for many public libraries interested in increasing their marketing reach, and accessibility. Given the superb hold system available over the Web through the Seattle Public Library, I for one would be an enthusiatic user of such a system. The only drawback is the matter of return postage- if the library were to pay this cost of return postage on books, the cost would become outrageously high. For DVDs and compact discs, the cost would be minimal. Even if the postage free part of the service were nonexistent or only applicable to certain items, patrons would still have the convenience and time savings of simply dropping return items off, rather than going into the library and wading through holds, not to mention standing in the checkout line. Several other library systems around the country have similar mail arrangements to the Topeka library, and the idea percolates along.

And what would be the ideal soloution to the return postage problem? Federal exemption for all posted materials to and from public libraries. While it would cost a great deal, such an exemption is not too much to ask. With the constant whining about the importance of reading and access to information in a democracy on the part of our state and federal politicians, free postage for public libraries is , in the larger scheme of things, little. But in order to replicate the private sector model of Netflix, that little is essential,.

Tags: posts | PATRONS | Model | mail | indeedy | holds | budget | Topeka | Shawnee | Netflix | missing | library | Culture

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