Tag Archives: Interlending

It may all be NUTS by David Law

As we rapidly approach a nadir on the Streamlining Group’s work at reviewing document delivery and supply we are gaining an integral understanding of what is a complex area. “Scratch the surface” or “opening a can of worms” are two phrases that have come to mind during the past few months, but recommendations for some key actions there will be. The potential is there to radically transform and streamline the way the NHS shares its knowledge, saves money and ultimately provides an ultra-efficient and equitable service to its end users.

The group is working towards the creation of a national policy on document supply by reviewing the existing regional policies and policies of other collaborative networks such as NULJ, PLCS and FIL (Forum for Interlending). There is a great deal of similarity amongst them, however we also need to be aware of where local practice may be “best practice” and incorporate this into our standards.

The contentious area of charging was raised in the previous blog posting from the group and elicited a number of comments. This is a difficult area to assess due to significant local variance and the reasons as to why a charge is in place. Close collaboration with other K4H workstream areas will be required to find a solution acceptable to everyone.

Nine years ago a business case was written, “NHS Interlending & Document Supply Services: Strategic Business Case”, but was never adopted as an action or a viable solution at the time. Many of the issues highlighted remain the same today and although we are not developing a new business case the group has taken on some of the recommendations from that document. A key part of the group’s work has been to scope out the practical and technical requirements of a document supply/interlending management system and this appears to have morphed into a beast of its own and there is hope that at a future date this may underpin document supply work within the NHS.

This work though is very much step-by-step and the group intends to deliver robust recommendations regarding document supply. As a first step the creation of a national union list of journals is core as this will make visible and increase accessibility to the journal resources owned by the NHS. Fundamental is the understanding that if a resource is purchased by the NHS, then it should be shared across NHS boundaries. This should reduce reliance upon external providers, often at cost, and will also in time allow for the creation of a national collection policy. At present we don’t know what we have!

What will be the impact upon regional schemes? Initially there should be minimal impact and the national union list will supplement membership of these schemes, however with the possible development of a national management system change will probably be required. Some regional schemes are already being transformed, amalgamated or have developed shared protocols. ULSERS will be no more soon and who knows what a new scheme may have as an acronym. It’s all NUTS to me anyhow….

Any comments please send to sue.robertson@thamesvalley.hee.nhs.uk

To Charge, or not to Charge…..

…that is the question and it’s a hugely contentious question when it comes to charging for supplying articles to our staff.

Charging

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

Not charging

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 sue.robertson@thamesvalley.hee.nhs.uk