Sacred Cow #2
I've been thinking about one of the most bloated sacred cows in library management systems. No, not the MARC record--I'll leave that one to others. I'm talking about Circulation Rules. It's become almost cliche to compare what we do in libraries (and this accusation is pointed primarily at academic libraries) to a typical commercial customer service.
Picture me at the Blockbuster checkout desk.
Me: Hi, I'm visiting here for the next six months and was wondering if I could check out your movies.
BB: Um. Can you verify your residency to prove that I should trust you?
Me: Yes. Here is a signed affidavit from the CEO of my company who moved me here. He can vouch for my credibility.
BB: Yeah, okay. I can make you a "visiting resident with special privileges." You'll get movies for 3 days fewer than other "regular" customers. Oh, and you can't check out new releases or games. I'll need your Social Security number and a permanent billing address just in case we need to bill you.
Me: Is there any way I can get regular privileges?
BB: Um, well....no.
Me: How many other users have this kind of borrowing privilege.
BB: You're the only one. We add profiles for people like you one at a time.
Who are we helping by ensuring that the professor emeritus in veterinary medicine gets bound periodicals for 3 days more than a full professor? I'm starting to find Amazon's delivery options confusing and there are only 3 or 4 of them? Why must we complicate something that could be so simple? Without disparaging the gargantuan effort that was the Evergreen ILS development in Georgia, the real victory, I think, was the creation universal borrowing rules.
Take a hard look at those systems, folks. Are all those item types really helping? Are all those patron categories useful beyond reporting usage statistics that rarely lead to any business intelligence decisions? Is it time to simplify?