Guidelines for Load Leveling in TexShare
The success of an interlibrary loan consortium such as TexShare depends on distributing the task of providing loans and copies equitably among participants. The ideal is for every library to lend the same number of items to the whole consortium as it receives from the whole consortium. This does not mean every library will have the same number of borrows/loans as every other library. Nor does it mean that lending will be equal between any pair of libraries within the group. It means that what a library gives to the group, it receives from the group in return.
Net lending or borrowing is the difference between the number of items a library borrows and the number it lends. When the number of loans is greater than the number of borrows, a library is a net lender. When the number of borrows is greater than the number of loans, a library is a net borrower. Load leveling refers to strategies borrowers can use when selecting potential suppliers that will help equalize the lending responsibility among libraries. The reality is that a small number of libraries may be net lenders. TexShare's goal is to keep the actual number of every library's net loans and net borrows as small as possible.
The first criterion when choosing possible lenders is ownership. A request to borrow an item would not be made to a library that does not own that item. The Texas Group Catalog will indicate whether which library owns a particular item and in some cases will indicate whether the item is on the shelf or not.
When selecting possible lenders, ILL staff often choose libraries they know will provide fast, accurate lending. Every library in TexShare has a responsibility to support its lending operation with at least equal priority as its borrowing service. Libraries with sizable collections that are net borrowers and libraries that are significantly smaller net lenders than their peers need to evaluate the quality of their lending service. A library that avoids requesting from another TexShare library because of inadequate lending should make that library aware of specific problems encountered so they can be corrected.
TexShare receives a monthly report from OCLC that shows each library's total borrows and loans from the whole consortium. Copies of the report are available through request to the Interlibrary Loan Program Coordinator at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The data makes every borrower aware of which libraries are big net lenders so they will know which libraries to avoid requesting from. The biggest libraries are likely to be net lenders. They are not only most likely to obtain less of what their patrons need from TexShare libraries but are most likely to own more materials other TexShare libraries need to borrow. Since health science materials are often needed and few libraries other than the medical libraries collect extensively in this area, medical libraries are also likely to be net lenders.
Keeping these ideas in mind, the TexShare ILL Protocol Working Group suggests the following guidelines when selecting potential suppliers:
- Custom holdings is the most powerful tool TexShare libraries have to effect load leveling. Use custom holding and keep it up-to-date.
- Avoid the medical libraries, law libraries, and the largest net lenders when other suppliers are available. When the choice is between a large library and a medical library, choose the large library first.
- Avoid sending requests to the same libraries every time. Try new partners in different parts of the state, particularly for copies. Remember that Ariel, Odyssey and TExpress delivery permit transfer of materials at the same cost and as rapidly to a library one mile away as to one a thousand miles away.
- If ownership limitations make it necessary to send frequent requests to the same few libraries, vary the order of the libraries in the lender string. But remember it is more cost effective and efficient for a single library to handle multiple requests for the same journal title than for several libraries to handle one request each.
- Be careful about selecting the library listed alphabetically first in the holdings display.
- Choose TexShare libraries first. The largest libraries and the medical libraries particularly should use TexShare libraries as often as possible to balance the load. The more they borrow from smaller TexShare libraries, the more smaller TexShare libraries can borrow from them without causing imbalance in any library's net lending.
We want TexShare to work. The concept offers great promise for resource sharing and document delivery in Texas. For TexShare to work, load leveling must succeed. Additional ideas for load leveling can be posted to ILL Mailing list. Be creative and share your ideas. Dialogue and awareness are important.
(Revised January 2010)