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LINK+ book loan system

Original post made by Robin on Jul 7, 2007

I'm by no means an expert on this LINK+ system, I've just used it at several Bay Area libraries before. I found this link on the web that explains what LINK+ is and how to use it at the Berkeley Public Library. Web Link

It seems a little different from InterLibrary Loan in a couple of ways:
1. there is no fee
2. it is done online (at home or at library computers) so it is generally faster
3. doesn't require library staff to complete the process
4. (and I'm not sure if this is not also true of InterLibrary Loan since I haven't used it) you can get books that are pretty hard to find b/c many of the libraries on the LINK+ system are univeristy libraries.

Again, I don't know what or if there is a fee for a library to participate in LINK+, but I do know it is a very useful service to get hard to find books quickly.

Comments (16)

Posted by Wanna know, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Sounds interesting. About how much would it cost? I know the library budget is something like $6million a year. How much would this thing be?


Posted by Robin, a resident of University South
on Jul 7, 2007 at 2:22 pm

I have no idea...anyone else?


Posted by Wanna know, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 8:32 pm

I checked the Library Commission agendas and they discussed Link+ in June
Web Link
but the report itself isn't attached online. Can't get a copy till Monday.
So I went to the library this afternoon and looked at it.
The first year cost is estimated at $77,600 and
subsequent years are estimated at 67,100.
Considering what a powerful resource it is, and how many libraries are members, I think it would be a very popular thing and a feather in the cap of the commission and the staff if they instituted it. That's a tiny fraction of our library budget.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 8:52 pm

For some of the details on Link+ and a pretty mind-numbing view into the inner workings (not working to well, I'm afraid) of our Friends of the Library, Library Commission, and the library management, here's a link to a thread from a year ago...

Web Link
Palo Alto Online - Town Square Topic

From what was said then, Link+ was held up by the fact our library management software didn't work with Link+ (apparently everybody else uses something different from us - hmm!). On the thread, someone claimed this had been fixed by the vendor. In an article from March 2006, though, one of the Library Commissioners said some other libraries they talked to said it wasn't used much. Possibly true - I have seen other libraries with similar systems report that it accounts for a tiny % of circulation.


Posted by Juliet, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Ah, I remember that exchange. Neither of them would let go.
But things have changed. The FOPAL fellow is no longer with them, but that Library Commissioner is still on the commission.

About the software, all kinds of software can be made to communicate. Even Macintoshes incorporate Windows now. Interfaces can be created, if there is the will there would be a way.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 9:12 pm

I am sure you are correct Juliet - there was clearly not a lot of "will to achieve" among the various library groups. Better now perhaps?


Posted by Juliet, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Yes, so I understand. The FOPAL people work really hard to raise big bucks for the library, it struck me as odd that a commissioner would tangle with, and insult, an organization that gives lots of $$ to the institution he supposedly supports.

But back to Link+. Even if a small percentage of people use it, that is a percentage of a very large number so it is still a lot of people. In addition, isn't the goal of a library to offer more and better resources to its patrons? Shouldn't that be the primary goal?


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2007 at 6:59 am

In terms of value, we'd have to do the math. The $ spent on Link+ could also be spent on books and other materials for on-site use. The library materials budget is ~$550K, so $70K a year (the annual cost of Link+) is about 13% of the total budget. I do believe that on-site, available right now materials are more valuable than materials available in several days.

BTW - I was earlier referring to a small % of total materials circulated, not of patrons using. My guess is that only a very very small % of patrons (I imagine way less than 1%) would avail themselves of Link+, since most patrons (kids, people just looking for a book to read) will never bother or prefer something they can bring home now.

But it does seem like most other libraries decide Link+ is worth it, so it probably is for us too. We can look at their usage stats (and I'm sure someone has) to get a sense.

In terms of FOPAL vs. the LC, I think there is plenty of blame and bad-blood to go around, though I am just a distant by-stander.

Fred


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2007 at 7:26 am

Well, here's a little more data. From Santa Clara City (not County) library board minutes (helpfully posted online), they reported 1000 Link+ request per month. Santa Clara City is population 100K, so somewhat bigger than PA

PA Library's total circulation is about 1.3M volumes/year (2003/04, last year I could find), so about 100K/month. So IF we had the same LINK+ usage as SCC, it would represent 1% of circulation. Is it worth 12% of our annual materials budget? Not sure...

BTW, while digging for data, I did find that Santa Clara County Libraries is consistently ranked the #1 library system in the nation for their population size (by the publication that ranks such things). Is there an opportunity to maybe just hand our libraries over to them??

Fred


Posted by Robin, a resident of University South
on Jul 8, 2007 at 8:45 am

Wow, what an interesting discussion (and great sleuthing for numbers!).

I suppose the mission or goals of the library would help to determine if it makes sense to spend the $ on LINK+. Access to most books is different than frequently wanted books at your fingertips.


Posted by Robin, a resident of University South
on Jul 8, 2007 at 10:29 am

Wow, what an interesting discussion (and great sleuthing for numbers!).

I suppose the mission or goals of the library would help to determine if it makes sense to spend the $ on LINK+. Access to most any book is different than frequently wanted books at your fingertips. And if the latter is what the mission of the library is (or I suppose what the majority of users want) then spending 13% on such an effort probably isn't going to make sense.

Mountain View library does have LINK+, so we can always go there (and drive our car to pick up the book)...


Posted by Juliet, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Yes, it's nice to have a civilized conversation, and I'm willing to ferret out more data as long as it remains civilized (thanks Fred).
Link+ would be about 1% of the library budget. If it added the same percentage of usage, that would make sense financially.
But again, it is a question of values. What is the value of adding 7 Million titles to the catalog? and the library doesn't have to purchase or catalog them which I believe is the most expensive function. Some things are worth more than others. Do you calculate the percentage of your income when you pay for medical care?

I never heard of Link+ until recently and likely I'm not the only one. This would be an opportunity for our libraries to brag and publicize and show we are up to date, instead of all the putdowns about how neglected we are. I would think it could be the best argument for a modernized building one could make. Improving internal quality is an argument our educated community might respond to, not just a building that keeps up with the neighbors.
I won't belabor this but the dozens of copies of DVDs of Six Feet Under and Seinfeld and the Sopranos and other popular TV shows is my idea of where NOT to spend collection dollars. I want the libraries to be smartened up, not dumbed down and Link+ is a way to accomplish that.
7 million titles and access to something like 37 academic libraries. It's a no-brainer (very small joke intended).


Posted by Broccoli, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 8, 2007 at 5:52 pm

some facts:

Mountain View Library: about 400 Links+ users, most repeat users - so how many books are borrowed by differnt people?

lost Links+ book fee - $115

Links+ only lends books, no media.

Links+ is VERY LOW on the "user scale"

Links+ causes additional staff time demands - from .5-1 employee, depending on use.

All that said, I'm a Links+ fan, but please let's not tout this great resource than anything other than it is - and probably always will be - a resource for those who have esoteric information needs. It's certainly NOT anything that would significantly bolster the quality of any public library's collection in any way that could be called significant.

we might try Links+ for a time - say one or two years. If usage doesn't move well beyond currently available metrics at other libraries, we should spend our money elsewhere.

also, keep in mind that joining Links+ puts Palo Alto's library collection in the Links+ pool, making more demands on our collection.

Last, keep in mind that if a system like Links+ ever became TOO popular, we might have a 'tragedy of the Commons' problemm facing member libraries.


Posted by Juliet, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Trying it out sounds like a very good idea. Then we will see how it works, and if people use it. But it needs to be publicized and touted, because hardly anyone knows about it. As I mentioned earlier, I only heard about it recently. It could be such a feather in the cap of the current library administration -- look what we are doing, bringing a great resource to the city! We do a lot of advertising when some magician comes to a children's event, this would be much bigger news, I think.

By the way, the fee for lost books seems fair to me. When you borrow something valuable from someone, if you lose it you pay for it. Probably also serves as a dis-incentive for stealing another library's book. The annual cost seems modest to me, I hope I'm not sounding cavalier, given the cost of other things and a sizable budget.


Posted by Wayne, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2007 at 6:03 pm

With old decaying libraries built over 30 years ago, surrounding cities with new facilities and updated technology, and No A/C in any palo alto library except downtown......Do you really think this is the way to go??? Invest in a Link + system????

Shouldn't we upgrade at least ONE library to reflect our "interest in the library." I hear all this talk of how we enjoy the library so much, but on every occasion to upgrade or update the libraries. Everyone argues about what is best and NOTHING ever happens....

I think Palo Alto will remain forever with an outdated library.


Posted by Juliet, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2007 at 11:28 am

Yes, we certainly should upgrade our libraries. It has always seemed to me that planned obsolescence has been the library's style. Why isn't there air conditioning? I don't know. Why is the lighting inadequate? These are the kinds of fixes made by ordinary home owners all the time. Somebody (plural) has not been tending the store. Replace some of those outdated fixtures. What's the big deal?
Over time, why haven't these things been done? Why is it so dark? A can of paint and some local talent would have improved it long ago. I don't know where the logjam is, but previous library directors need to explain.
Link+ would come from a different budget than major construction. (I assume collections budget.)
We should be able to hold two ideas in mind at the same time. Improving the collection should not wait until a bond election. The money involved is a pittance compared to the millions for construction.


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