BENEFITS OF AUTOMATING ILL/DOCUMENT DELIVERY
Posted to ILL-L on November 23, 1999
Dear ILL colleagues:
As the importance of ILL continues to grow, and as more libraries become interested in automating important processes, I've received many questions about Virginia Tech's ILL automation efforts. So I put together the following summary to keep things straight in my own mind and to inform others about our results. I'll be posting this note, with a slightly different introduction to ILLiad-L and to a couple of Virginia library listservs. I hope you find this information useful.
--Harry Kriz ____________________
Virginia Tech automated ILL borrowing in 1997, followed in 1999 by ILL lending and document delivery to distant learners. I am often asked how much money we have saved and how many positions we have eliminated in ILL as a result of automation. The short answer is "none." The longer answer follows.
_____________________ PURPOSE OF AUTOMATION
It is worth repeating that automation has two purposes that are closely related: 1.) Improving customer service 2.) Ensuring the survival of the enterprise
We should also remember that automating a library process is not an achievement, it is merely a cost of doing business. Library achievements can be measured only in terms of customer success.
The benefits outlined below have been achieved for our customers since 1996 with no increase in ILL staff. They result from a comprehensive, process approach to library automation, not from the simplistic task computerization that we so often see in libraries. It is clear that the process approach to automating ILL/Document Delivery can impact many areas of library service, including collection development, reference service, and user training.
________________________________________________________________ ILL AUTOMATION IMPROVEMENTS TO CUSTOMER SERVICE AT VIRGINIA TECH
1.) Ability to handle increased volume of customer requests -
In fiscal 1999, ILL borrowing obtained 22,574 items, a 52% increase over fiscal 1996. This growth rate continues. During the first 4 months of fiscal 2000, ILL borrowing posted 11,061 requests to OCLC, an increase of 25% over the first four months of fiscal 1999 and a 76% increase over the first four months of fiscal 1997.
2.) Reduced Turnaround Time -
1996 1999 (random sample Oct-Nov) (all Oct-Nov requests) Returnables 12.6 days 11 days Non-returnables 13.8 days 10 days
We now measure turnaround time from the instant the customer enters a request into the ILL database, not from the time we first see the request and start working on it. (For example, requests submitted on Friday evening are not seen by the staff until Monday morning, but that intervening time is counted as part of the turnaround time.)
Note that 90% of turnaround time is caused by external factors such as time for lenders to respond and ship and time in transit. This causes significant changes in turnaround time during the year. Average internal processing time for each request totals 1 day, including the night and weekend hours that elapse from the time a customer inputs the request until we begin processing it.
3.) No limits on customer requests -
We do not impose any limits on customer requests. Some customers have submitted 50 or more requests in a single day and these were processed that same day.
4.) New services for distant customers -
ILL staff now provides automated document delivery of Virginia Tech materials to faculty and students not located in the greater Blacksburg area. Since ILL began this service on September 6, 1999, we have delivered about 3,000 items.
5.) No daily backlogs (ability to handle peak loads) -
All requests submitted by 4:00 pm weekdays are posted to OCLC by 5:00 pm. All requests submitted over the weekend are posted to OCLC by Monday afternoon. When we lost Internet connectivity on Monday, October 18 we were able to process all weekend requests and Monday's requests by more than doubling our normal daily output to a total of 352 requests sent to OCLC on Tuesday October 19.
6.) Improved customer confidence through full disclosure -
Customers can view the complete transaction history of each one of their requests. They can track each step in the process, know the name of the staff member who worked on each part of the process, and see the date and time each step in the process was begun and completed.
7.) Improved public and staff understanding through statistics -
The public can use their web browsers to generate statistical summaries of ILL performance in real-time from our live database. The complete history of more than 79,000 ILL borrowing requests entered since July 1, 1997, 32,000 ILL lending requests received since March 10, 1999, and 3,200 document delivery requests processed since September 6, 1999 are now online.
8.) Improved customer and staff understanding and feedback -
Customers and staff can attach an unlimited number of notes to any request.
9.) Improved customer convenience and reduced effort -
a.) Customers provide their mailing address and other necessary information only once when they first register for ILL service. Over the Web, they can update their shipping address and other personal information at any time, even while a request is in process. Customers can choose to receive articles electronically or by mail, as well as choosing a location to pick up materials if they prefer.
b.) Customers can renew ILL loans online. Phone calls from customers asking about their requests are almost non-existent despite the large increase in number of requests. When a customer does have a question, staff can respond instantly because all information about each request is immediately displayable on screen.
c.) Customers can submit and track the progress of their requests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from any location on earth. They can retrieve electronic photocopies on the same schedule.
d.) Customers can resubmit a request canceled for incomplete or incorrect information simply by calling up the request in their Web browser and providing new or revised information.
10.) Quality control of electronic articles -
All electronically delivered articles are verified for page orientation and readability. Automated page reorientation keeps all pages upright on screen.
11.) Improved reliability of request information and delivery -
All data about the request is keyed by the customer and transferred programmatically to the OCLC work form. This eliminates misunderstandings resulting from staff interpretation of handwriting or staff mis-keying of customer supplied information.
12.) Services provided regardless of location -
We provide automated ILL service and document delivery service over the Web to faculty and students working at remote locations as far as 3,000 miles from our Blacksburg, Virginia office.
_______________________________ SURVIVAL OF ILL AND THE LIBRARY
Survival of the library as a viable entity within the university depends on its ability to satisfy the demands of the university. Survival of the university depends on its ability to satisfy the demands of its students and governing bodies. In the past 10 years or more, the demands on the library have been to provide more service using less funding and fewer staff, and to provide greater access to information with smaller acquisitions budgets. ILL now plays a key role in meeting these demands.
1.) Doing more with less -
In addition to absorbing the increase in ILL borrowing, automation of ILL made it possible for our department to absorb significant new duties in the past three years:
a.) ILL staff assumed responsibility for document delivery to faculty and staff outside the greater Blacksburg area, processing 3,100 requests in the first 10 weeks of service.
b.) ILL staff assumed responsibility for all packaging, shipping, and receiving for items borrowed from or loaned to Virginia libraries. Previously this task was handled by the library mail room. (Out of state shipments are still packed by the mail room.) Shipping of loaned or borrowed returnables is done through FedEx. (Articles sent free to our consortial partners are almost always sent by Ariel.) In fiscal 1999, we handled packing, shipping, and return of 7,700 returnable items.
c.) We offered automated electronic delivery of Ariel photocopies facilitated by automated sorting and processing of incoming Ariel files based on customer delivery preferences.
d.) We redirected staff time to provide increased personal attention to solving customer problems and to handling difficult requests. This became possible when we eliminated all our paper records and the associated filing of several tens of thousands of pieces of paper each year. Staff time was also released when customer inquiries declined as a result of customer online access to all information about their requests. Automated e-mail for customer notification and overdue notices also released staff time while insuring more rapid return of overdue materials.
2.) Substituting for reduced subscriptions -
By providing greater access to information held elsewhere, ILL has become an effective substitute for subscriptions to many serials. Reduced turnaround time and improved responsiveness has increased customer confidence in the ILL process.
3.) Reduced staff training -
We reduced the need for training new employees and improved the flexibility of existing employees. Automated systems fill out the OCLC workform, download and sort requests into priority queues, automatically insert double entries in the lending string for EMST lenders, and perform other tasks that formerly required special procedural knowledge on the part of staff.
4.) Adapting to staff shortages -
ILL staff are better prepared to adapt to temporary staff shortages. For example, despite a staff vacancy during the current semester, the busiest in our history, we maintained service quality such as rapid turnaround time while beginning the new document delivery service for distant customers. This adaptability results in part from the reduced need for training in complex procedures that now function under program control.
5.) Adapting to increased university demands -
As the University Administration emphasized services to distant learners, ILL was prepared through automated efficiencies to provide these new services and to improve the ability of those at a distance to reach into the Blacksburg campus to obtain information and services.
6.) Improved management ability -
Detailed statistics on tens of thousands of ILL requests and thousands of customer profiles are being analyzed to improve ILL service, collection development, reference service, and end-user training.
I hope you will agree that the benefits of automation are many and varied. The process approach to automation of ILL directly affects the bottom line of the library business, which is service to our customers.
Harry Kriz Director of Interlibrary Services Virginia Tech (VPI)
----------------------------------------------------------------- Harry_M_Kriz@vt.edu 540-231-7052 FAX: 540-231-3694 http://learning.lib.vt.edu/ University Libraries Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech) Blacksburg, VA 24061-0434 USA "What joy to awake every morning in a world so filled with things to learn." - H. M. Kriz (1994)