Lopsided Hold Lists
Part of providing excellent service to our patrons is providing copies of the items they want in a timely manner. Sometimes this can be a tricky prospect. We all have limited budgets so we generally can't purchase a copy for every patron who wants to read, watch, or listen to the latest popular title. Fortunately, as BCCLS member libraries, we can help meet demand via our sharing system and hold requests.
As with any system though, there can be hiccups! In our library, this often comes to our attention when we review pending patron requests or when a patron asks us that oft heard question, “Where's my stuff?”
We then discover that a specific title has a very long waiting list, despite the availability of other editions- sometimes editions that we have in our own library at that very moment. A quick request shift or trip to the shelves can often solve the problem in the case of a patron who is actively asking, but what should you do in the case of stumbling onto the problem while viewing reports, hold lists, or the like?
- The Case of different, but virtually identical editions.
This is a situation in which our patrons request a specific edition of an item even if a virtually identical item exists. We have found at our library that patrons generally select whatever edition appears in the catalog without looking further down the list. In a case like this, I generally feel fine shifting holds to a different record. As an example, recently patron interest in Fletcher Knebel's book Night of Camp David has spiked. There are two different records of this book available. As you can tell from the screenshot below, one edition has only two holdings while the other has forty-eight holdings. There are no major differences in the MARC records. Unfortunately, the older edition has forty-four patrons waiting! It is a situation in which I will move or group holds for my library's patrons in order to fill those holds faster. In this case, if I know the patron might be interested in a digital copy, I will even call or email them. No one is waiting for the digital edition of this popular title at all!
Case 1: Multiple similar editions and digital options
- The Case of different, but not identical editions.
Things get a bit trickier in this situation. At our library, it tends to happen when students are assigned a book to read for school but are told to find the book themselves or the book is being adapted for television or film. If I am familiar with the patron and absolutely know they are not interested in a specific edition, I will switch or group the hold with another edition in order to get them a copy faster. If I have any doubts, I contact the patron either via email or phone and apprise them of the situation. In virtually every case, the patron is happy to have the switch made for them and feels as if we are providing a high level of service to them. In the screenshot below is an example that shows several, but not all of the BCCLS bibliographic records of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. There are three different large print editions alone, not to mention the variations of audio and standard print copies! While the holds list here is not terribly long right now, patrons can stack up on just one or two of these records that only have a few items attached.
Case 2: Multiple editions that are not as similar to each other
- The Case of two records for the same edition.
Our BCCLS database is huge, with so many records being added, edited, and manipulated regularly that occasionally there are accidental double records. Often these doubles appear as one record that has almost all the holdings in BCCLS and one record that has only one or two items attached. They often even have the same ISBN listed on both records. As in the other cases, our patrons might place their individual requests on the record that only has one or two copies. When they could have had their request within a few days, they end up waiting instead!
Case 3: A book that has two records for the same edition in the database
When you notice records like this, PLEASE, fill out a support ticket on the Staff side of the BCCLS website. To reach the form, click on the button that says SUPPORT on the left side of the staff page. Choose “Database Error” as your problem type and fill out the rest with the appropriate information from the spare record. Over time this cleans up these extra records so our patrons will be able to request from the whole pool of copies held in BCCLS.
The BCCLS Support Form
While I do know that it takes time to change holds and contact patrons, providing items to our patrons as promptly as possible is important. Our library staff has found that patrons really appreciate it when we take the time to ensure they receive items more quickly, so generally it really is worth taking the time to change a patron's hold when hold lists become lopsided and to report double records.