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					TE 2.2:
Rapid ILL: Resource sharing on the fast track
Kathryn (Ridenour) Leigh
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
kathrynr@library.umass.edu

Introduction
          In 1981 when I became involved in resource sharing at the University of Massachusetts,
Interlibrary Loan was a specialized service for an exclusive clientele (faculty and graduate students only,
thank you) for specialized materials. Undergraduates were told that the local library holdings would be
sufficient to meet their research needs. Patrons submitted requests on paper, staff manually typed ALA
forms to mail a request to a library that we believed had the item or staff used their allotted time on the
OCLC terminal to retype and send requests to libraries where ownership might be a bit more certain than
what NUC Pre-56 listed, and then...we waited. Staff and patrons alike were quite pleased when the material
arrived in 2 or 3 weeks, staff expected to have to send requests out several times before success and
researchers planned for a long wait. Administrators often endorsed the view that patrons should pay any
fees lending libraries charged. (This was special stuff after all.)

          Fast forward 25 years, Interlibrary Loan is a core library service, essential and open to all patrons.
Materials ordered range from rare books to popular DVDs. Requests are submitted to various resource
sharing systems directly by patrons working online. Minimal staff intervention is needed to receive a book or
an article from another library and I have seen impatience expressed by patrons who do not have their
material within 48 hours.

         Today‟s patron expects convenience, electronic requesting, notification and delivery. Staff expect
technology to deal with the request for common material in an unmediated fashion and for their skills to be
applied to handling difficult requests for hard to find material and in streamlining and managing workflows
for greater efficiencies or value added services like document delivery from in-house collections.
Administrators have come to terms with the fact that the library can no longer own resources sufficient to
support all of the research needs of the campus and are seeking reasonably priced access methods to take
the place of increasingly expensive subscriptions. Budgets have tightened but philosophies have changed.
We no longer penalize our patrons with a charge to obtain materials we cannot own.

         How did we get here from there? How have we managed to put Interlibrary Loan on the fast track?
A key piece is RAPID... but first a bit of background.

Background
          As Plato said “Necessity is the Mother of invention”. Much has been written about the flash flood
that hit Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, Colorado on July 28,1997. Striking the newly renovated
Morgan Library and leaving an estimated $40 million dollars of damage, the flood inundated the basement
                            i
with over 8 feet of water. It was a library disaster of epic proportions damaging nearly 500,000 items
                                               ii
including most of the bound journal collection. With the start of the Fall semester just a few weeks away the
library moved on several fronts to develop services that would meet the needs of their campus. As Director
Camila Alire wrote in 2003 “Not only were new automation and programming efforts developed specifically
for disaster recovery ILL services, but the changes were also intentionally designed to introduce permanent
                               iii
improvement in ILL Service.“ Out of this disaster a new custom-made ILL service called FastFlood was
       iv
born.

         FastFlood was a one way ILL system developed at Colorado State University that included a web
                                                                                           v
based patron request form, a streamlined system to send requests to six partner libraries based on known
                                                                          vi
partner journal holdings and an agreement for fast electronic delivery. The end result was that 90% of
requests were in users hands within two days and a combined borrowing and lending cost of less than
                          vii
$5.00/item was achieved. Efficiency, cost savings and enthusiasm from patrons for the convenience and
speed of this new system led to a decision to turn this crisis based service into a permanent one. The basic
                                    viii
elements of RAPIDILL were in place.

RAPID
        RAPID was developed as a two way requesting system that contained the essential elements of
FastFlood: the ability to accept electronic requests, automated searching and matching within a centralized
database and the commitment to 24 hour turnaround time. Seven academic libraries comprised the initial
                         ix
group that participated. As it was then so it is today. Each library contributes a list of journal holdings in a
                                                     11-1
standard format to RAPID staff at Colorado State University. This data is then used to create a centralized
database, which can be queried by an SQL server application that automatically searches for an exact
match based on the ISSN and year of the incoming request. To initiate a request the borrowing library calls
up or enters a request in electronic format, invokes this application and the data contained in it is used to
query the database. If no match is found the request is simply processed as usual via OCLC or other
method of choice. When a match is found the complete request is sent into the RAPID system and
converted into a web-based printable form that the lending library can easily retrieve from the RAPID
website. If more than one match is found amongst participating libraries the system uses a load levelling
algorithm to route the request to the appropriate library.

          These lending requests arrive “ready to retrieve”. They contain the location and call number, the
certainty that the material is actually owned and the Ariel address of the requesting library in barcode
format. Though fill rates are very high because of these factors, if, for some reason, the article cannot be
supplied, the RAPID system also has provisions for the lending library to respond with a message to the
borrowing library if there is something that can be done to clarify or fix the citation (conditional) or to simply
say no if the item is not on the shelf. A negative response automatically routes the request to the next
potential lender, eliminating the need to resend the request from the borrowing library.

         Automation was and is only part of the equation for success, however. Each participating library
agrees to send articles within a 24 hour timeframe via ARIEL technology. While initially this may have
required additional equipment, adjustments in workflow and student help, this commitment to fast service
was and still is the essence of RAPID‟s success.

RAPID today
        “Best Practices are highly effective or innovative operating procedures and philosophies that
                                                    x
produce outstanding performance when implemented.”

         The basic framework and philosophy of the RAPID system remains fundamentally unchanged
today. That said, technology has advanced and many enhancements suggested by RAPID participants and
staff have been added to the system. Participation has expanded beyond the ARL based charter
membership to include 81 libraries in various groups or „pods‟ as they are known within RAPID. Pod
membership can be based on criteria such as ARL membership, Carnegie Foundation Classification or
membership within a specific consortium or group. Libraries can belong to several pods and have requests
routed to them in a hierarchical fashion based on their preference. Because of this arrangement RAPID
can truly enhance cooperation within existing consortia and also expand cooperative opportunities for
members beyond a geographical area or traditional peer group.

          Enhancements in borrowing now include the completely unmediated submission of requests into
the system when a request has a year and an ISSN or OCLC bibliographic record number and a local
holdings alert, which will indicate local ownership and provide the location and call number (very handy for
campus document delivery services too!). RAPID borrowing is also able to directly interface with the most
common ILL management systems, Clio, Relais, and ILLiad, meaning that it can use the electronic requests
submitted into those systems, record RAPID request numbers within them, and perform as a fully integrated
part of standard borrowing processes.

         Enhancements to lending now include the ability to use the RAPID application originally designed
for borrowing to quickly find the local location and call number information for article requests submitted via
OCLC or other non-RAPID systems. This eliminates the need for a very time consuming manual or Z39.50
search of the local catalog for these requests and the ability to add floor location to request printouts. Future
developments may completely automate this process as well. Currently RAPID lending requests are still
downloaded from the RAPID website. Other future developments may allow for the importing of RAPID
lending requests into the ILLiad ILL management system as it already does for Clio and Relais users. For
ILLiad users this would mean the ability to use the Odyssey protocol to send and receive articles using this
method with RAPID partners. Receipt of articles via Odyssey can be completely automated presenting huge
advantages to borrowing libraries and patrons.

          In addition to using RAPID to obtain articles on Interlibrary Loan, participating libraries also use the
system to aid in collection development decisions. The RAPID website contains an easy search interface
that allows for searching of journals by ISSN or title. Results of the search show the holdings of RAPID
partners. This can provide libraries facing difficult cancellation decisions with one more factor to consider
and the ability to reassure faculty that might need articles from cancelled titles held by RAPID partners that
very fast delivery is the norm.

         Turnaround time commitment is not simply a statement made by participants. RAPID staff carefully
monitor turnaround time and if a library consistently fails to meet expectations they will contact them to
investigate and seek solutions. Performance and statistics are easily available to participants at the RAPID
website as well. Fill rate and turnaround time are tracked and clearly quantified. Monitoring your own
operation‟s performance is a very simple task.
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So what does it take?
           Participating in RAPID is truly a simple endeavour. Because the data resides on servers in
Colorado there is no need to purchase or maintain special equipment in-house.
The most complex task is to extract a file of journal holdings from your library OPAC. Engaging appropriate
in-house expertise is necessary for this but RAPID staff can provide advice and can work with your staff to
achieve the desired result. Once this is done, an Internet connection, a web browser like Internet Explorer
or Netscape, and the very simple download of the RAPID application complete the system. Staff training
literally takes minutes and benefits are realized immediately. It takes far longer to explain what RAPID is
than to use it!

What are the processes?
         In Lending:
Print requests from the RAPID website, retrieve articles, scan and send within 24 hours using ARIEL and
update the requests.

          In Borrowing:
All requests with ISSNs and year go into the RAPID system without staff mediation. For those missing
either element, staff locate and paste in the missing data, invoke the RAPID application, which finds
appropriate lenders, creates and then sends the request in a matter of seconds. Staff then import the
resulting RAPID number into the request and consider it sent. Articles arrive within hours and are delivered
to the patron‟s desktop through your local process. If your library happens to own the article that your
patron believes another library must supply it also gives notification of this fact allowing you to make the
most appropriate decision for delivery.

A real library tale – getting on to the fast track
           Our first contact with Colorado State University staff was in the summer of 1999 when we were
seeking an online form to interface with our recently acquired ILL management package that did not include
this feature. We had heard that they might be able to help us with their product called “WebZap”. By the
Fall of 1999 this electronic form was implemented and had become the preferred method for patrons
submitting requests and for staff processing requests. Coming to the library to fill out a paper request was
no longer necessary and interpreting handwriting and re-keying request information had become a thing of
the past. Significant progress in the area of patron convenience and speedy request processing was
realized. UMass Amherst was on its way to becoming a paperless office. (This product, free to Rapid
libraries, is available for purchase from Colorado State University. See: http://www.webzap.org/index.html )

           In mid 1998 the University of Massachusetts Amherst was one of 4 libraries, (Washington State
University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University)
contacted by Colorado State University with a proposal to participate in a project called RAP to help them
replace pages as their flood damaged volumes returned from freeze drying. Our periodical collections had
considerable overlap and because of this it was felt that we could be of significant assistance. Colorado
State provided equipment (scanners and PCs), software based on FastFlood requesting and funding to pay
for staff and student salaries. Requests for replacement pages were received ready to retrieve and staff and
students engaged in production line scanning and sending of pages. In the end over 4 million pages were
sent to CSU over 24 months by the four RAP libraries.

          When this project concluded, UMass Amherst was invited to be a charter member of RAPID.
(March 2001) Eleven libraries participated in this initial group, which continued to expand over time. At
UMass Amherst it quickly became obvious that it was more beneficial to go to RAPID partners before
traditional local consortial partners. The ease and accuracy of requesting combined with the 24 hour
turnaround time commitment made other agreements with consortia pale in comparison. In 2004, RAPID
embarked on further expansion through the creation of additional pods, and in 2006 the Boston Library
Consortium, of which we are a member, decided to create their own pod. This enhanced cooperation and
performance within the consortia and opened up opportunities for members to expand partnerships with
other committed lenders in RAPID. RAPID participation truly brought home the idea that for a consortium to
work and for your users to benefit, priority must be given to efficient and committed lending practices.

The facts
         In FY 1997 UMass Amherst obtained a total of 5,805 articles from other libraries with a turnaround
time of over 1 week. In FY 07 that total was 19,299 with 13,694 articles coming from RAPID partners.
Turnaround time statistics for FY 2007 demonstrate that articles are delivered to us, on average, within 15.02
hours from the time we send the request into the system until receipt. It is not an exaggeration to say that
patrons are impatient when they do not receive ILL articles within 24-48 hours. In addition, RAPID has
allowed us to absorb increases in article lending from 9,808 articles in FY 1997 to 18,021 articles in 2007 with
                                                    11-3
only small increases in staff. 46% of all articles that are supplied go to RAPID partners, meaning that no call
number or location lookup is necessary for almost half of all article requests received and the fill rate for these
requests is 85% or more. In addition, participation in RAPID has resulted in faster turnaround time for all
lending transactions. It is far easier to handle all requests on a rush basis than to create 2 different work
streams.

Conclusion
         RAPID uses technology to automate routine tasks, ensure accuracy and streamline processes.
RAPID participants commit to 24 hour article delivery. These factors combine to „fast track‟ ILL operations in
a way that neither one could do alone.

         Participation in RAPID has also brought further side benefits and changes in philosophy that can
be used to “fast track” many operations and work processes. Things I have learned? Service to users
comes first and…. always remember that another library‟s users are your users too. Never be afraid to re-
examine processes and give up those that do not further speed and efficiency. In other words, don‟t plan
work processes around exceptions or what ifs! Use automation to your benefit wherever possible. Though
you will always need humans for the exceptional requests and the management of work, staff finds it far
more interesting to do the tasks that machines cannot do. And finally, don‟t concentrate on tradition or the
obstacles, but seek out the innovative colleagues in your field and talk about far-reaching goals, solutions
and vision.

        Participation in RAPID has been the catalyst for refining and fast tracking our ILL operation. I knew
we had met the mark of true success when a faculty member said to our director, “When I need an article I
always hope that the library does not have it – so that I can get it delivered via Interlibrary Loan!”

….which leads to more thoughts about on-campus local document delivery services, but that is another
article for another day…..

Comprehensive        information    about     RAPIDILL    can     be     found      from    their    homepage:
https://Rapid2.library.colostate.edu/default.aspx . Choose “public Information”.

References
Alire, C. A. (2003). The Silver Lining: Recovering from the shambles of a disaster.
Journal of Library Administration, 38(1/2), 101.

Leon, L. E., DeWeese, J. L., Kochan, C. A., Peterson-Lugo, B., & Zillig, B. l. (2003).
Enhanced resource sharing through group interlibrary loan best practices: A conceptual,
structural and procedural approach. Libraries and the Academy, 3(3), 419-430.

Lunde, D. B. (1999). When disaster strikes: A case study: Colorado State University
Libraries, July 28, 1997. Serials Librarian, 36(3/4), 363-382.

Moothart, T. (1997). Muddy waters bring the library blues and enhanced electronic
journal access. Serials Review, 23(4), 79.

Rogers, M. (1997). Colorado state university library closed by flooding. Library Journal,
122(14), 104.

Smith, J. (2006). The RAPIDly changing world of interlibrary loan. Technical Services
Quarterly, 23(4), 17.

Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2000). After the flood, Colorado State reaps a harvest of
invention. American Libraries, 31(10), 36.

Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2003). RAPID: A New level of collaboration for ILL.
Colorado Libraries, 29(1), 22-24.


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Endnotes

i
     Moothart, T. (1997).

ii
      Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2003).

iii
      Alire, C. A. (2003).

iv
      Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2000).

v
 Colorado School of Mines, University of Denver, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Northern
Colorado, Arizona State University, and Cornell University

vi
      Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2000).

vii
       Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2000).
viii
       Wessling, J., & Delaney, T. (2003).
ix
 The seven participating libraries were: Arizona State University; University of Arizona; University of
Northern Arizona; University of Colorado, Boulder; Washington State University; University of
Massachusetts, Amherst; and Florida State University.

x
      Leon, L. E., DeWeese, J. L., Kochan, C. A., Peterson-Lugo, B., & Zillig, B. l. (2003).




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