David Lee King writes in his article The Missing Piece of the Library Netflix Model
Previously, I have posted a little about Netflix and how libraries could use the model in a similar way (mainly riffing off Michael Porter’s great posts about Netflix). And then I switched jobs.
And guess what? In my first two weeks at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, I kept hearing things about mailings. And holds. And mailing holds. It finally clicked, and I asked “wait a sec. You mean we mail stuff to patrons?”
Can you guess what the answer was? Yes indeedy, we do in fact mail ALL HOLDS to patrons. That means books, videos, and music - whatever was requested. Since the 1970’s. And we budget for it, too. This year’s budget (ending in Dec) had $360,000 earmarked for mailing reserve items to patrons, and we’re increasing it in our 2007 budget (US mailing rates went up).
Why in the world do we do this? Because our patrons absolutely love the service. In fact, Gina Millsap, our director, has spoken with patrons who have stated “this is one of the most important” library services and have also said that if we didn’t have this service, they’d “just use Amazon.”
The Topeka & Shawnee County Library was recently ranked #1 in the Kansas library rankings. This ABC News feature (Quicktime required for video) has a quote from a patron about the books by mail service:
More than 91,000 lovers of books, cds and movies have borrowed from the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library so far this year. Among those checking out the library on a regular basis is Sarah Wheeler. She says the best part is the extra attention she gets when she walks through the door. [...]
Wheeler says her favorite part is known as the Red Carpet section. It's where people with special needs come to find specialty items such as books with large print. Wheeler has problems with her vision and has had a number of health problems. When she was unable to make it to the library, she had her books delivered to her home.
"That was incredible when I was using that," says Wheeler. "What is really phenomenal is that you can get books mailed to your home."