I've been thinking lately about how libraries work. Today, I might put it like this: driven by our core beliefs, librarians assemble complex systems to achieve important community outcomes.
Two years ago, it took an average of 48 hours for materials returned to the library to make their way back to the shelf.
That's not surprising. Over the past five years, checkouts have jumped by 98% in Douglas County. More materials means more handling.
But I work with some remarkably insightful and innovative people. Case in point: my Associate Director of Virtual Services, Bob Pasicznyuk, put together a team that eventually involved almost everybody in the library and a good many community volunteers. That team tested, selected, and installed RFID tags, self-check stations, and behind-the-scene sorting systems.
In the past TWO years, we've seen a 31% jump in checkouts. That's almost a million new transactions every year. At the same time, since January of this year we've had a hiring freeze, thus we employ fewer people than last year.
And now it takes just 2 hours to get materials back on the shelf. In some locations, we have it down to 45 minutes.
Many people, I'm sure you will be astonished to learn, are more interested in themselves than they are in others.
One of the marks of maturity, however, is this: you begin to notice that all our lives are interdependent. That is, an environment where many people thrive is better for you in the long run than one that's just set up for your immediate convenience.
Back on June 8, 2009, the Denver Post ran a front page story, above the fold, about the Rangeview Library District's decision to abandon the Dewey Decimal System.
The day the article came out, an out-of-state friend was visiting one of our staff members. The visitor asked, "Is this actually a hot issue here in Colorado?" Our staff member kept a stern and straight face. "Absolutely," she said. "Dewey. Anti-Dewey. There will be blood."