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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Statewide Delivery System

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 22, 2012

For the past couple of months, our libraries have used the children’s book title, “There’s a Nightmare in the Closet” to describe the statewide delivery system that moves books, DVDs, and various other library holdings around Ohio to public and academic libraries.


Five days a week, the contents of Ohio’s libraries is “in transit” moving around to satisfy the informational needs of Ohio’s citizens.


The system began in the 1950s, and was called Interlibrary Loan.  The State Library of Ohio maintained a “Union Catalog” of library materials so that individual titles could be located and loaned as needed.


The books moved by U.S. Mail via library rate postage from library to library once a form and manual search located the book-in-question.


Beginning in 1967, computers streamlined the process and delivery systems supplemented the movement of requested books.


By the 1980s, our area had joined the borrowing process, and twice-a-week a delivery van moved requested items around southeastern Ohio.


Once public computers and the Internet allowed people to search library databases, and systems were refined to permit public requests of library materials, the need for sophisticated movement of library materials became imperative.

For several years, the State Library of Ohio contracted with private delivery firms to move requested library materials around the state, with local libraries taking advantage of the benefits of a statewide contract.


Early in January, the unthinkable happened.  The current delivery company announced that it was breaking its contract and ending service with the March 6 delivery.


All of the latest computer systems and networks would stop because the wheels of delivery vehicles around the state would stop moving.


The State Library of Ohio joined forces with the academic libraries to work with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services in finding a replacement company to perform delivery.


The situation was declared an emergency, and bids were accepted and reviewed, and a new contract was awarded.


Due to the limited time period, the previous company was willing to extend deliveries to Friday the 13th of April to allow production of new shipping labels and plan for the switch in services.


On April 12-13, our library system received over 1,400 bags/boxes of items that had been clogged in the delivery system during the switchover, as we prepared to begin sending with the new company.


A few things went to the wrong library, deliveries were delayed, and new warehouse hubs were established; but most things are working their way around the system and the new drivers are finding their routes and library destinations.


From the perspective of library staff, it will take some time for the “nightmare” to work its way out, and for things to achieve a normal flow.


All of this points to the collaboration of Ohio’s libraries in using our collections to the benefit of everyone using the state’s libraries.


Over the last 60 years, Ohio’s libraries have become one large system that provides materials (both physical and online) to the citizens of Ohio.


4-fold Interlibrary Loan forms have been replaced by online systems in locating the needed materials.


I regret if something you requested was delayed, but I appreciate all of the work that was done in Columbus to address this problem.


I wish the best to the new company doing deliveries, and hope they understand their importance in the success of Ohio’s libraries.