Magazine article Computers in Libraries

SirsiDynix: How to Leverage Your ILS to Support Equipment Loans in Other Campus Departments

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

SirsiDynix: How to Leverage Your ILS to Support Equipment Loans in Other Campus Departments

Article excerpt

Libraries have long been stewards of collections beyond books, periodicals, and other information sources, particularly when it comes to lending technology and multimedia equipment. The library at Bucks County Community College (Bucks), just north of Philadelphia, has been lending laptops and various types of media equipment since 2004. The library at Bucks is part of a larger department--learning resources--and it was no great stretch to extend lending services to other areas of the department, notably the tutoring center and the media lab.

Lending of equipment is governed by an Equipment Lending Agreement form that students complete each academic year. (Ours, which grew out of our original Laptop Lending Agreement, was featured in 2006 in Wireless Networking: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Louse E. Alcorn and Maryellen Mott Allen, from Neal-Schuman.) It governs usage of laptops, tablets, handheld video recorders, microphones, wireless presenters, and more--770 pieces of equipment in all, available across three campuses.

Students have responded overwhelmingly to this service. Laptop lending began at a humble rate in the first couple of years to a peak of more than 20,000 circulations per year by 2012--which has since dropped down a little in the age of BYOD and expanded Wi-Fi, but remains strong---and is currently standing at around 17,000. Other equipment types, including tablets and handheld video recorders, are supporting changing curriculum needs. As multimedia assignments began to grow, so did the need for equipment. And the library has continually strived to meet these needs. The usage statistics remain strong--no equipment has been lost--and the college has come to recognize the library's leading role in equipment lending.

Need Arises Elsewhere on Campus

But the library is not the only area on campus where students need to borrow materials and equipment. The department of the arts lends equipment to students enrolled in courses in both the photography area and the cinema video area.

Staffers were regularly lending high-tech, high-price equipment--such as video cameras, box cameras, and audio-recording equipment--using a paper-based checkout system. This amounted to more than 500 pieces of equipment tracked on paper. The system was cumbersome (to say the least) and prone to inaccuracies, sometimes leading to lost equipment and confusion.

They needed a better solution and approached the library for help. They wondered if, and how, it would be possible for their area to use the ILS to meet their needs. After all, the library had extended use of the ILS to the tutoring center and media lab, but they were technically in the same department: learning resources. We recognized that this might be out of the normal range in which the library may have operated before. However, we were not hindered by the notion of another area of the college making use of library resources. In fact, we welcomed the challenge.

The Challenge

How would we go about turning those paper-based records into ILS item records, train staffers not familiar with library practices and procedures (or lingo), and get the word out to students about what to expect when seeking these items? We were going to need to up our game for sure.

We looked at this as an opportunity to think of the ILS in a more traditional way. Often, we discuss the ILS as it pertains to supporting discovery or as it is augmented or replaced by the library services platform. But this was more of a back-to-basics view that considered how we could better use the ILS for inventory control and circulation of materials for the entire college.

We had to determine many aspects of the project, including how to handle the collection maintenance on the system, training of the department of the arts staff members, and creation of specific notices and reports. We had concrete goals in mind: to create better service for students, to facilitate ease of use for staffers, and to increase the value of our ILS investment for the college. …

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