Why are we waiting….??
A student complained recently that a book we had ordered for her hadn’t arrived in time for her to use it and she therefore felt it was unfair that we charge her for not collecting it. The book arrived here 10 days after she submitted her request (and 4 of those days were over weekends!) It made me think about when I started in ILL (before the time of email requesting) when we used to put printed requests into envelopes and post them to other libraries. There would often be a rota on the back of the request form so that the first library could pass it along to the next if they were unable to supply. It used to take weeks to get books that BL didn’t have and I don’t remember so many people complaining about the time it took. I think people are now so used to finding things online within a few minutes that they forget that requesting physical copies of books takes a bit longer. They have no idea what processes we have to go through to find a book if BL doesn’t have a copy available straight away. Checking Copac, OCLC Worldcat, Amazon and that’s often just to confirm that the item exists let alone find a location willing to lend it. ‘Oh, I found it on Copac, you can get it from Oxford’ is a common cry. Yes, maybe they do have it at Oxford but as it’s quite a recent publication they will not lend it. ‘I found it on Google’– oh well then, that should be easy enough to conjour up a copy from the vague (and probably imprecise) information you have provided from a random page on the internet. ‘My lecturer said you should have it but I can’t find it’ – did your lecturer think to submit it on a reading list to allow us to try and buy a copy for stock? No? Oh, that’s a shame, it’s the telepathic librarians week off this week otherwise we would have been right on that. And my all-time favourite ‘I’m not sure why you can’t get a copy straight away, I mean, no-one else will be reading up on this subject’…….so that’s why it’s held in every library’s short loan collection then?
The flip side of this is the number of books we receive within 2 days of submitting the request and the books languish on the holdshelf for weeks. Last year we were returning approx. 30 books per month that people had ordered and not collected. In August 2014 we decided to charge £5 for any non-collected material. This seems to be working as the number of items returned without being used in the past 8 months currently stands at 36!
It will be interesting to see what happens if/when we are able to borrow ebooks…..watch this space!