No More Midblock Crossing – What are our options?

As we all heard last week we are no longer allowed to cross midblock to either go to bookmobile or main depending on where you start.  This is an opportunity for us to evaluate what we can do to minimize the number of times we cross the street.

Last year there was a team that studied the retrieval of materials from bookmobile.  I’m going to share with you some of the data we have and a brief synopsis of that process but please remember that at the time we were still able to cross midblock and we were only talking about retrieving materials for customers.  Now, there are many more factors in play so the conversation would be slightly different.

Here is the process we worked:

  • How do we operate currently?
    • There are different triggers that lead to staff going across the street…
      • Customer asks if we have “it” and staff discover the only copy we have is across the street
      • Customer can’t find “it” and when staff look the item up find it’s across the street
      • Customers know what the annex is and tell staff that’s where the item is they want
      • Customers put an item on hold and request it be delivered to a bookmobile stop and then find themselves at main before the assigned stop and ask staff to retrieve the item for them now since they are here
      • The item is on a bookmobile which just happens to be in at the moment (especially Sundays)
      • Staff is asked about an RCVan book and the vehicle is in (either across the street or at the dock at main)
  • Define the issue
    • Consistency – some people do, some don’t/weather is a factor/whether it’s an on phone or in person request/timing of the ask
    • Efficiency – takes a long time/multiple staff can be over there at one time/where is it over there – tub, vehicle or shelf/if call and ask bookmobile staff to help locate before go over there then it takes them away from their work
    • Customers don’t know or understand what the annex is
    • Leaves the desk understaffed and unattended
  • What are our options?
    • Don’t go
    • Develop new process
    • New catalog designation or hide the annex
    • Move entire bookmobile collection to main
    • Move the only copy we own to main
    • Unpaid interns/volunteers

From these options the team did a plus/delta of each in which more discussion occurred.  After discussing hiding the bookmobile collection in the catalog which should cut down on the requests to retrieve items the team regrouped and remembered this wasn’t about us but the customer and doing this was more beneficial to staff than customers. So the following recommendations were suggested.

  • We go across the street to retrieve items Monday – Friday between 9-5
  • A staff person (each department has a shift) at 10:30, 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 goes across the street to get the materials requested up until that point, triggers the hold and puts them in the holds pick up room
    • A process needs to be figured out on how we know what needs pulled
      • Print the reserve and put them in a folder to be picked up at each desk OR
      • Figure out a way to accomplish this online
    • Communication and scripting – how do we let people know if we couldn’t find something?

I’m sure there are many more options that could be considered especially with it being more than just material retrieval for customers now.

I did look at the numbers for 2017 which only show the number of times public service staff goes across the street to retrieve materials for customers.  This does not include the youth staff or circulation.

Month (2017) Times go to BKM
January 276
February 209
March 249
April 194
May 259
June 278
July 341
August 296

The total number of times public service staff has gone across the street to retrieve materials so far in 2017 is 2,102.  That is an average of 263 times a month or about 9 times a day (looking at the month being 30 days).

Please leave your ideas/suggestions here and we will look at our options and figure out a new process for at least retrieving materials and maybe we will be lucky and think of other ways to streamline other processes.

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About Stephanie Hall

I am the ultimate smut reader at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. If there isn’t a good looking guy on the cover I probably won’t read it. I choose my nail polish color by its name (my favorite being Miss Fancy Pants), love any potato food (French fries are awesome especially if they are loaded), enjoy accessorizing and live to be the mom who can embarrass my kids with my ultimate coolness but still have them think I’m pretty awesome. Professionally, I love being a cheerleader for my staff and encouraging them to try new things. I manage the public services department and get to work with an incredibly smart and talented staff.

11 thoughts on “No More Midblock Crossing – What are our options?

  1. In this response, I’m looking at this from my perspective as someone who works desk shifts and answers phone calls. I know there are other relevant aspects.

    We regularly hear that it is considered “good customer service” to cross the street whenever a patron requests an Annex item. It is implied that staff who resist retrieving items from the Annex in the middle of a desk shift are either lazy or less concerned with good customer service than staff who readily do this. That’s not how I see it. Particularly in light of recent changes, retrieving Annex items during a desk shift is, in my opinion, simply inefficient.

    Instantaneous service is not the only, nor even the best criteria for good customer service. In this particular situation it provides inconsistent results. The stats don’t reflect how often a trip to the Annex is fruitless in locating the item. They don’t reflect how often staff make multiple trips for the same patron within the same visit. Nor do they reflect the amount of additional time spent when you stop downstairs to check the bins, or when those bins are stacked 3 deep, not to mention doing those things and still not finding the item. Rather than faster results, why not focus on providing more reliable results?

    We don’t need a process improvement team to create a new system, we already have systems in place: either we go to the annex, or those items get added to the pull list like any other item that gets put on hold. If we continue to cross the street, we should do this with full understanding that it’s not the most efficient or effective way to put items in the hands of patrons, but that it has the benefit of appearing as if we are “going the extra mile”. If we stop, our patrons may be frustrated at first, but they will adapt quickly just as they have to all the other changes we’ve ever implemented. In fact now, might be a great time to make this change, as we become a learning organization working toward a self-service model.

    There is nothing wrong with prioritizing one aspect of customer service over another. Sometimes “fast” just means “busy”.

    • Miranda Ericsson on said:

      Thanks for this, Meg. It’s important to reflect on what the stats *don’t* tell us when we’re considering this question.
      I agree that retrieving items from the annex is inefficient, and that it takes much more time than the stats reflect. On-the-spot retrieval offers one kind of “above and beyond” customer service, but can negatively impact customer service to others who have to wait, or who are unable to find someone when they need help. We have to consider all perspectives as we move forward.

  2. Jacob Ziegler on said:

    I was curious to see how different the actual stats are from the estimates from public service stats. From October 1st-10th, 144 Annex items have checked out at one of the self checks here at main that were not placed on hold. This is still somewhat under reporting as someone may have checkedout at the CS desk or we may have retrieved the item but they didn’t check it out due to limits, or it was placed on hold, checked out, returned and then checked out again. Roughly 14-15 trips per day so far in October. Also because I felt like I needed to know, Sunday we average 24 Trips, Monday 10 Trips, Tuesday 11 Trips, Wed 3 Trips, Thursday 6 Trips, Friday 1 Trip, Saturday 18 Trips. Weather may have been a factor on some of these as last week was pretty rainy/stormy too.

    • Kimberly Sain on said:

      Jacob–did you look at item type? Curious to know if some of what you reference is related to YS activity not reflected in the above PS stats. Hope that makes sense–typing while at Media…

      • Jacob Ziegler on said:

        While I didn’t specifically look at the collection code, I did pull that information anyway:
        Audiobook CD – Juv – Annex 1
        Audiobooks – Fiction – Annex 1
        Bestseller Express Fiction – Annex 2
        Bestseller Express Horror Fiction – Annex 1
        DVD Adventure – Annex 11
        DVD Comedy – Annex 5
        DVD Drama – Annex 12
        DVD Express – Annex 21
        DVD Horror – Annex 5
        DVD Juv Entertainment – Annex 18
        DVD Nonfiction – Annex 1
        DVD Science Fiction – Annex 5
        DVD TV – Annex 12
        DVD Westerns – Annex 1
        Fiction – Annex 1
        Health Neighborhood – Annex 1
        Horror Fiction – Annex 3
        Inspirational Fiction – Annex 1
        Juv Early Reader – Annex 1
        Juv Fantasy Fiction – Annex 3
        Juv Fiction – Annex 2
        Juv Graphic Novel – Annex 5
        Juv Nonfiction – Annex 7
        Juv Paperback – Annex 5
        Juv Picture Book – Stories – Annex 6
        Juv William Allen White – Annex 1
        Music CD Kids – Annex 3
        Mystery Fiction – Annex 2
        Playaway – Annex 1
        YA Fiction – Annex 2
        YA Graphic Novel – Annex 2
        YA Science Fiction – Annex 1

        • Kimberly Sain on said:

          Thank you, Jacob for sharing this. If the goal is to minimize the number of times we cross the street (Stephanie’s first paragraph above), then moving the DVD annex collection to the main building would seem to be one remedy, however I don’t know how that would impact BKM staff and their daily activities. That’s a lot of trips for Juv and Adult DVDs, at approx. five minutes (if all goes well) per trip.

  3. Michelle Stottlemire on said:

    This is a really interesting conversation and stats list, especially viewing it from “the other side” at Bookmobile. Kim pondered what the effect would be if the BKM DVD collections were moved over/integrated into the collection at main. If this were to happen, then two to three times a day (during vehicle loading times) a BKM staff person would need to take a cart over to main and pull the numbers/types of DVDs needed to fill gaps on the vehicles. It would required the purchase of additional carts, and it would change a task that takes maybe 5 minutes now into a 20 minute (best guess) task each time. That adds 40-60 minutes of workload and takes a staff member away from the dock where they could be helping with rest of the pulling/loading. I’m not saying it’s not manageable, but since our current staffing is so tight it is not unusual to only have one person pulling a restatusing list. This type of change would definitely hinder a solo staff member from complete the task within time allotted, so staffing structure might need to be tweaked.

  4. Patty Akrouche on said:

    Though it may sound like a solution, moving the annex collection would change the day to day workload of getting the busses loaded and out on the schedule we operate within at present, in my opinion. Perhaps dedicated courier shifts, manned by departments that are affected by this change in crosswalk areas would be something we could give a try.

  5. Lissa Staley on said:

    I’m just brainstorming, but what if there wasn’t an annex adult DVD collection in the catalog, which would confuse customers less, and the main library staff pulled movies at the designated times (and either delivered them to the dock or had them ready with the cart of holds).

  6. Stephanie Hall on said:

    As you can see this isn’t a black and white matter. I really appreciate everyone’s input and I know it has given me some things to think about. I will compile this information together and then I believe a decision just needs to be made one way or the other.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t know how we will get there but I will definitely keep you posted and hope to have a decision made by the beginning of November. Thanks!