Sacred Cattle

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The PubLib listserve members pored over this question from Andrea Taylor – the Division Manager for Tech. Services at the Fullerton Public Library in California.

 We have been asked to come up with a list of things to cut in each
department and have been told that nothing is a sacred cow.  Has anyone
had to do this?  Specifically, I am asking about what in my Technical
Services dept. could be considered (TS = Sys. Admin., Acquisitions,
Cataloguing, Processing, Mending, etc…).

There were many answers and divergent points of consideration. Librarian Andrea Taylor compiled these results:

Cost Cutting Suggestions

Technical Services

1.      No mending

2.      No binding

3.      No direct orders or out of print orders (used books)

4.      Do not replace missing/damaged/lost items unless requested by patron

5.      Outsource cataloging

6.      No donations unless Best Seller (on hold)

7.      Limit the number of times someone check’s another’s work (i.e. eliminate circ’s final check on new books)

8.      Why do we stamp the edges of books? Stamp inside?  i.e. …can we eliminate redundancy? We have streamlined our labeling, so that we are only doing the bare minimum of processing – barcode, spine labels and a property stamp is about it.

9.      Forgo spine labels on DVDs

10.  Move paperback cataloguing to TS as it can be done faster and attached to appropriate hardback records if available.

11.  Paperbacks – Put mass market pbs in generic paperback records with no processing other than a bar code and property stamp.  Occasionally patrons would like to know the name of the item that is overdue, and it would be nice to look up paperback titles but it’s not that big a deal and does save staff & processing time and database space.  Use generic records for board books and fotonovelas.

12.  Reuse children’s cataloguing slips.

13.  Putting all juvenile holiday books into regular circulation.

14.  No plastic covers on juvenile & adult magazines

15.  Limit all printing to only what is necessary.

16.  Eliminate double securing of DVDs

17.  Do you really need to property stamp all over your new materials?  If your barcode has your name on it, that’s almost enough.  Maybe one stamp with your name and address would save you one or two books over a decade.  Is that amount of return worth the cost of labor over and over again? 

18.   We are considering whether or not to continue to place magnetic strips in every item – we are still trying to figure this one out, but if things get tough enough we may drop the mag strips all together.

19.  We are not replacing jewel cases or repackaging CDs and DVDs to save some on case costs. 

20.  Order supplies once per year to cut down on shipping charges.

21.  Stop counting books (i.e. we count # mends, #new processed etc…)

22.  Get rid of children’s kit’s bags and go to CD’s inside cover – a lot cheaper and easier for circ to deal with.

23.  Make us of project plan for everything so that cost of every new procedure is detailed

24.  We have had vendor processing for years and have really streamlined the whole acquisitions process this year which has freed up staff to go fill vacancies in branches

25.  We place barcode on outside of material in exactly the same place EVEN IF IT COVERS SOMETHING UP.  This means that people don’t need to stop and think about label placement.  And, Circulation loves it!

26.  When we print the spine labels, the location prints on the 2nd label so we know where the item belongs.

27.  No special stickers (ex: Mystery, Science Fiction, etc.)

28.  Centralized selection

29.  No “special classification” requests.  (ex: “My branch wants this a “Easy Book” not a “Non-Fiction” book. 

30.  Stopped assigning LC call numbers to CDs.  We now just use Horizon Collection Codes for the genre and performer/composer name for call number (the same format as the call numbers for fiction.)

31.  We have established automatic cancellation dates with our major vendors.  This means that we just cancel orders in Horizon but we don’t need to send out cancellation notices.

32.  We cancelled all travel book and exam book standing orders.  Baker & Taylor now sends us carts with the newly available titles each month and we just firm order what we want.  This saves all the time managing the standing orders and it also helps the acquisitions budget because we may not want to purchase something like Fodor’s Belize every year

Collection Management 

33.  Limit amount of materials purchased from Sales Rep and Stores

34.  Use standing orders/profiles for fiction

35.  Purchase WorldBook only every two years since now online and little reference

36.  Because we have online encyclopedias we only buy hardcover encyclopedias every other year

37.  There are certain self-weeding collections:  math, witchcraft, true crime, tarot cards, test study guides, etc.  I think these and other high-theft collections should be bought in paperback and not bound or laminated.  These should be bought about once a year, and when they’re gone, they’re gone until next year.

38.  We took a very long, hard look at the user stats for our electronic databases in spring and dropped two databases this year; again no negative comments have comments have made their way to me, but, the user stats were very low so not very many people were impacted.


39.  Have reference librarian work at circ desk to field ready reference while ref desk is closed.

40.  Allow circulation to answer simple reference questions

 41.  We buy very little reference in hardcopy (almanacs, dictionaries, atlases) relying on our electronic offerings


42.  Move Holds from behind the desk to self-pickup!!

43.  Send only 1 notice before bill

44.  Recently, because of the budget restraints, we’ve had to go to a 4:1 ratio of holds to holdings – not very appealing but there’s just no money.  No patron complaints have come to me from the branches or through our website comments feature.  Note: FPL’s ratio is 5:1 already.

45.  This isn’t a high impact savings measure at all, but it does save libraries from having to buy   bookmarks for patrons (if they even did it in the first place), it’s environmentally friendly, and   patrons love the outcome and think they are getting something elegant for nothing. I take old   catalogs that we get, the ones with thicker covers, and cut them into bookmarks. 

 46. We added a new feature to email notification of holds.  Now, if our patrons choose to   be     notified by email, they will also receive an email three days before the resources are due,   with a link to renewing them.  This has decreased our mailing costs. 


47.  Eliminate storytimes with less than 10-15 attendees

48.  We are slowly phasing out the “Request” ability to Floppy (paperback) children’s picture books and the  hardback picture books for babies. The new replacement copies that we receive are identified as  Floppy and     cannot be requested. Our floppies are part of the browsing collection and are displayed face-out which made it   difficult for staff to locate them if they were requested.  Below I’ve provided you with a picture of how the floppy  picture books are displayed throughout the San Jose Public Library System. The hardback picture books for babies   are placed in square bins for parents to go through.


49.  We have also changed our hours so the library is closed on two consecutive days, where we used   to be closed on Friday and Sunday.  This has helped our utility costs, as we power down   completely when we leave for the weekend.  We  have furloughs, which were received very well,   as we chose days when we were not busy right before holidays.  And we changed our working   hours to nine hours on four days, and eight hours on the fifth day, and three day weekends every other weekend.  The staff likes this also.  

 50.  In general, we remove any barriers to self-service and are in the process of evaluating all positions  so that we staff for function.  For example, when a Library Clerk position becomes vacant, in most   cases this position is being reclassified to a Page position due to the need to turn the collection  around faster.  We have used self-check machines for a decade and in 2006 installed automated  materials handling, so as much as 70%-90% of circulation is done through self-service today.  The   bottleneck is in shelving the 11 million items that circulate annually.

51. We are simply going through out budget line item by line item to look for opportunities to cut. We’ll also be   looking at the material budget and hours. (3% additional cut needed for this year).

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