…that is the question and it’s a hugely contentious question when it comes to charging for supplying articles to our staff.
Libraries that charge do so for a number of reasons
- Customers are more selective about the items they order.
- Controls the costs of ILLs and provides some income generation
- Easier to manage workload as the flow of requests are generally more manageable.
- Less wastage – customers are more likely to collect items they have paid for
But then there are some major disadvantages
- It may discourage customers from ordering items
- Creates extra administration for the library (and possibly for other departments if re-charging is involved)
- Handling cash creates additional problems for libraries – till issues, audit, cashing-up etc
- Charging in advance sometimes creates a delay if the customer does not have the money on them
- Pay on collection may mean they do not collect, so the library has incurred a cost but is not able to recoup any of this cost
- Payment on collection may delay them receiving the item as they have to make a trip to the library to pick-up
Libraries that don’t charge have equally good reasons for doing so….
- Fewer barriers for the customer so it is much more convenient for the customer (and the library)
- Reduces “monetary conflict” with the customer (no chasing for payment)
- Reduced delays for payment etc
Again there is a downside
- Sometimes customers do not give careful consideration to what they order
- libraries may be presented with reading lists or search lists and asked to get everything they can
- More items ordered – creates additional workload for the library
- Little control over costs for the library
Charging after a bit.
Some libraries give a free allocation of articles requested then charge once the limit is reached… One could argue that this gives the benefits of both systems (but maybe also the disadvantages) and there is the extra admin required to keep track of everyone’s tally for the year.
Talk to any library manager and they will argue that their way is the right way to do it. It may not be perfect, their approach may have its disadvantages but it will be appropriate for the circumstances in which their library must operate……
…….but what about the customer
What if we had no charging, no limits and a simple web based form. The customer completes the online form with their NHS email address and a few days later an article (provided by a NHS library) appears in their inbox. Sounds great – the customer has got the article with minimal delay, at no cost to them and without bothering their local NHS library.
This creates a problem for libraries. The local NHS libraries that drive this system are hidden from view. As far as the customer is concerned they don’t need their local library for document supply as the national web based system can meet most of their requirements. To increase the NHS Library’s visibility in this process you could send the article via their local NHS library but is it worth creating an extra step/delay for the customer just to make a point?
Somehow a national document supply system/scheme will have to take this “sea of troubles” into account…..
K4H’s guiding principles and values (p.17) challenges us to think differently- to work together to deliver a coordinated, streamlined national library service to our users. How will we do this?
We want to understand your views so that we can take them into consideration as we move towards our recommendations for streamlining document supply.
Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org