TexShare Courier Service Working Group Minutes
January 12, 1996
Members present: Gary Ives, Chair (UT Medical Branch, Galveston), Amy Chang (Texas Tech University), Kathryn Connell (UT Southwestern Medical Center), Mark Dolive (University of North Texas), Scott Downing (East Texas State University), Peter McGuinness (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Bonnie McNeely (UT Pan American), Tony Rodarte (UT El Paso), Eleanor Wilson (Sul Ross State University), Carolyn Thorne (Community College Liaison, Dallas County Community College), Jo Anne Hawkins (TexShare Project Manager, UT Austin).
Absent:Karen Nichols (Lamar University).
The TexShare Courier Document Delivery Working Group assembled in Dallas at the Clarion Hotel at 9:30 AM on Friday, January 12, 1996, for its first meeting. After members introduced themselves, Chair Gary Ives commented on the agenda for the day and reviewed the Group's charge:
"To investigate a statewide document delivery system which will provide 24-hour delivery of documents between TexShare libraries, and to produce a report on the feasibility of such a contract by August 31, 1996."
Jo Anne Hawkins provided some history of the TexShare program and noted that the Courier Project was added to the program for 1995-96. Other than funding for the Working Group's travel, funds were not allocated in the TexShare budget for actually establishing a courier system. She distributed copies of lists of members of the TexShare Advisory Board and of the TexShare management structure and a Texas map marked with locations of TexShare libraries. She noted that the courier system which we will recommend would at least initially handle only materials sent on interlibrary loan and not those checked out by individuals on the TexShare Library Card Program, wherein borrowers are personally responsible for materials.
HARLIC (Houston Area Research Libraries Consortium)
Turning to a discussion of existing courier services operating in Texas, Gary Ives noted the difference between "closed" courier systems -- those operating only within a specific group of participating libraries -- and "open" courier systems -- those operating from participating libraries to any other library. An example of a closed, rather small system is the HARLIC (Houston Area Research Libraries Consortium) courier system, which uses Central Delivery Service (CDS), to deliver library materials to eight libraries in the Houston area. Libraries in Houston receive daily pickup and delivery, while libraries in outlying areas have less frequent delivery. CDS fees for service are much less expensive than UPS or US Postal Service fees. Libraries are not required to package materials; staff simply label items and note on a delivery list where they are to be delivered. CDS drivers sort materials as they are picked up and do not return to a central point to do the sorting. Records of items shipped are maintained by the libraries. The most common problem with CDS concerns the reliability of the drivers, individual contractors who must use their own vehicles and sometimes do not have backups.
Gary noted at this point that a major issue to consider is how we might deal with existing delivery services when me make our recommendations concerning a statewide system. Cost and how to provide for non-TexShare partners will be major issues.
UT EL PASO/PONY EXPRESS
Tony Rodarte discussed the Pony Express courier service to UT El Paso, the eastern-most participant in an informal system of about eight libraries in which all other members are in New Mexico. Libraries in the area maintain close relationships and offer reciprocal borrowing privileges to students, faculty, and staff. There are cases of students who are enrolled at both UTEP and New Mexico State University, about 40 miles away! Daily pickup and next-day delivery are features of the agreement. Items must be packaged by library staff, and only ILL materials are included. Libraries maintain records of items being shipped. There is no formal consortial agreement among the libraries or with Pony Express; individual libraries contract with the company for services for which they are billed a monthly service charge. A copy of UTEP's contract with Pony Express was distributed to the group.
AHE (Alliance for Higher Education)
Mark Dolive commented on the AHE (Alliance for Higher Education) courier service contract. AHE is a longstanding organization of 56 academic institutions and businesses primarily in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, although it extends as far as Midwestern State University to the west, Baylor to the south, and ETSU to the east. The library component of AHE is an example of a classic multitype library cooperative program. Copies of the AHE courier service contract with MDH Couriers and of the courier schedule were distributed to the group. The cost is modest, presently $1,283 per week for all 56 members. Some former members of AHE, such as the Dallas Public Library, are no longer members of the consortium but continue to participate in the courier program. Delivery is normally done in one day for libraries in the central hub area, while delivery to outlying areas is subcontracted to local couriers and can take longer. The courier carries all sorts of items in addition to interlibrary loan materials, but does not transport cash, payroll checks, or hazardous materials. Reimbursement for lost items has been a problem; there is no stipulation in the contract that requires MDH Couriers to reimburse for losses.
CORAL (Council of Research and Academic Libraries)
Jo Anne Hawkins commented on the CORAL (Council of Research and Academic Libraries) delivery system in the San Antonio area. A copy of the CORAL delivery service agreement was distributed to the group. CORAL is an organization of 30 academic, medical, military, and corporate libraries which has been in existence for about 20 years. CORAL's executive board contracts with Bill's Parcel Service, a local courier service, for delivery of library materials. Deliveries are made within one business day. Library staff package materials in zippered bags and label them for delivery. Bill's Parcel Service reimburses libraries for the fair market value of items which are lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair. Charges are assessed per delivery unit, which is the equivalent of two 5"x12"x20" boxes. Libraries maintain records of items that are being shipped.
GMRLC (Greater Midwest Research Libraries Consortium)/FEDERAL EXPRESS
Jo Anne Hawkins noted that GMRLC is a consortium of 18 research libraries, including 17 academic libraries and the Linda Hall Library of Kansas City. In 1994, as a consequence of the impending dissolution of the Southwest Conference and the move of some Texas institutions to the Big 12 Conference, GMRLC added to its membership four Texas libraries: Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, and the University of Texas at Austin. A copy of the GMRLC contract which individual institutions sign with Federal Express for delivery of library materials was distributed to the group. FedEx provides shipping materials, labels, etc., as well as dedicated electronic equipment, the Powership, on which to track materials in transit. Fees are competitive; the group reviewed a comparison of expedited delivery charges done by UT Austin's Nancy Paine of FedEx, UPS, Airporne Express, and USPS which demonstrated the benefits in turnaround time, rates, and materials for packaging. The group also considered Kansas State's Cherie Geiser's compilation of responses to a GMRLC FedEx Usage Questionnaire, completed in November 1995.
Gary Ives commented on his visit the previous day to Texas A&M's Interlibrary Loan office and the use of FedEx there. Amy Chang added her comments concerning Texas Tech's use of the system. While 24-hour delivery is available, Tech uses 48-hour delivery, which is less expensive. The online tracking system is very effective; all items can be traced, and statistics can be generated. The system is dependable, predictable, and easy to operate. FedEx supplies envelopes, boxes, etc. The equipment includes two printers, one for mailing labels and the other for receipts. Gary noted that this is an example of an open system. ARL is also working on a similar agreement for its members with FedEx.
The group then turned to a discussion of closed courier systems vs open courier systems. Will it be possible for TexShare libraries to limit their participation in a courier system? We will need to contact courier companies concerning options and possibilities. How shall we survey libraries about their preferences and needs? What levels of service will be acceptable? The group needs to devise specifications for vendors, whom we may ask to give a demonstration of their systems/services for the group. Such demonstrations have been used by other TexShare working groups to select electronic information vendors. It was noted that Amigos had recently announced their interest in providing courier services to libraries.
PROPOSED ACTION TIMELINE
The group broke for lunch from noon to 1 PM. Following lunch, Gary Ives provided a proposed action timeline for the group's consideration. The basic timeline included:
Distribute minutes of the group's meetings to TexShare libraries.
Identify potential courier vendors.
Query libraries and vendors.
Meet with vendors.
Draft and distribute a draft report.
Complete the final report no later than August 31, 1996.
OPEN VERSUS CLOSED COURIER SYSTEMS
Returning to the discussion of open versus closed courier systems, the group listed the pluses of an open system as: expedited service; pay as you go; ship to anywhere; easily expandable; possibly not in competition with existing systems; easier to incorporate into existing systems; flat rate versus cost per item charges. The minuses of an open system include: higher cost per unit than in a closed system and potential for conflict with existing system.
The pluses of a closed system include lower cost and expedited service. The minuses include a reduced coverage and frequency of delivery and a required minumum level of activity.
The group discussed how best to formulate a query to vendors and the information we need to solicit from them. Points we may include are service levels, guarantees of delivery times, supplies and equipment provided, system maintenance and support, provision for reimbursement in case of loss, flexibility for future expansion, references from other customers, a sample contract, and provision for demonstrations of the service.
It was noted that in our final report, it will be useful to include a brief history of the increase in postage rates to provide some comparisons with courier services rates.
In discussing how to formulate a query or survey to TexShare libraries, the group determined that the best approach would be to send libraries an open-ended letter in which we ask for information about current modes of delivery including consortial arrangements for expedited courier services, whether libraries are interested in an expedited service, information about the types of materials that might be sent, and how much libraries are willing to pay for expedited, high quality service, with possibly one rate for 48-hour service, and a higher rate for 24-hour service. The ultimate question would be, if a contract for a better rate can be negotiated, would the library be interested in participating? We may also ask if libraries are satisfied with the courier service they are presently using and if they would recommend enhancements to it. If necessary, we might follow up our initial query to libraries with another soliciting statistical information.
A suggestion was made that it may be possible to link existing Texas liibrary courier services. The Panhandle Consortium in that area of the state is another miltitype network of libraries with a delivery system which we may consider for study.
In soliciting information from couriers, we will narrow the list according to certain criteria such as being licensed in the state of Texas for statewide courier service. Jo Anne will get a list of potential couriers licensed through the Railroad Commission, which regulates such services in the state. She will also check with Ed Seidenberg of the State Library about a complete list of consortia and couriers operating in the state. She will send draft minutes of the meeting to the members by January 24, and members are asked to send her corrections or additions to the minutes no later than January 29. Jo Anne will then send the corrected minutes to the TexShare Management Group and to the TexShare listserve.
Gary will draft the letters to libraries and to courier service vendors. He hopes to send these queries no later than January 30 and will ask for responses from the recipients by February 14.
The group tentatively scheduled its next meeting, which will include demonstrations or presentations by courier service vendors, for March 28 or 29. After the presentations, the group will meet to discuss them and to consider how to structure the report. The report will be drafted and distributed to the members for comment. The group may meet again in May or June to finalize the report well before its due date of August 31.
Gary adjourned the meeting at 2:30 PM.