Monday, September 19, 2011


Whether to circulate supplementary materials or keep them for library use only will depend on your own situation. Some libraries circulate materials, some restrict materials, and some libraries have even established two files: one for circulation and one for reference. You will likely reach a compromise, circulating most items but restricting certain items.

For those items that seem invaluable for reference use, you may want to consider ordering a duplicate copy or making a copy (with copyright clearance). Mark the original “Reference” or “Library Use Only” and allow the second copy to circulate. Or, you could provide a copy machine near the vertical files so that patrons can copy the parts of the materials that they need rather than checking them out.

There are a variety of ways in which you can manage the circulation of supplementary materials. There is not one best solution. You should choose your system carefully, keeping in mind your patrons, your collection, and your own staff time.

Manual circulation Transaction form. Use a separate form for each item circulated. Items can be listed or you can simply indicate the total number. Forms can be duplicated on NCR (no carbon required) paper so that there is a duplicate copy for the transaction. One copy can be stapled to a manila envelope in which the items from the vertical file have been placed for circulation. The slip is removed from the envelope when items are returned, and envelopes can be reused. Slips for returned items are matched with checkout slips in the circulation file. Slips can be filed under the borrower’s name, under the subject, or under the due date. See figure 10.1.

Sign-out sheets. Libraries that allow patrons to check out materials themselves may simply use a dated sheet of paper fastened to a clipboard near the files or at the circulation desk. This honor system of borrowing simplifies checkout. If the patrons check things out themselves, make the system simple or it may defeat itself by encouraging users to bypass it entirely.

Ledger book. Maintain a ledger book in which circulation is recorded with items crossed off when they are returned. This is a variation of the sign-out sheet.

Master card. The master-card system is another option in which the librarian maintains a master card for each subject in the file. The cards are kept at the circulation desk and circulation is recorded on line after line of the card. One advantage in this system is that it gives a very clear picture of circulation, which is helpful in weeding and developing the collection.

Check-out card. Attach a card and pocket to each piece for circulation. This would work best for collections such as annual reports, college catalogs, scripts, or reports. The process increases your investment in time and materials but it allows greater control. Libraries that use this system argue that the time invested in providing cards and pockets is balanced by time saved when pamphlets are circulated. This system also lets your patrons know that you value the material enough to spend the time processing it. If labels for cards and pockets can be created by computer, this is a more appealing system than hand-typing cards and pockets. Color-coding of book cards can indicate special collections. Even with the use of volunteers, preparing check-out cards is a very labor-intensive job if you have a collection of a substantial size. Another option is to attach a check-out card to each folder or envelope of material. This means that you would circulate the entire folder to one user. This is not a popular approach.

Automated circulation Anything that has a bar code on it can be run through your automation system; however, a bar code number will be of little use unless it is attached to an item record. You can bar code a set of envelopes for circulation and indicate by the range of numbers that they are for vertical-file items (see figure 10.2). When an envelope is lost, you will not have specific identification, but you will know that one vertical-file item was lost. Many libraries do not replace vertical-file materials, so the only information needed is the charge for lost materials. That can be facilitated by setting a flat rate for vertical-file items.

Bar-code numbers can serve as accession numbers when you have an automated system. If you are using sequence (or accession numbers) as a system for arranging materials, then you can easily assign a range of bar-code numbers to your vertical file and attach the bar-code number to your individual record. The sequence system requires an index with individual record information since it is arranged in the order of acquisition and not by subject. This system works well for special libraries or for special collections of materials.

Circulation procedures You can provide some protection and security for items by using a “carrier envelope” for circulation. The use of a carrier is to isolate each loan group, protect the materials, and perhaps offer a place for recording pertinent circulation information. The most popular type of carrier is a large paper envelope. You can use old mailing envelopes or buy envelopes especially constructed for circulation, which are made of sturdy kraft paper with reinforced edges. Office suppliers also offer envelopes with string ties.

Stamp or print the name and address of the library on the envelope to ensure returns. This will help the patron identify the envelope as library materials and will also encourage return if the materials are lost by the patron.

When old envelopes are used, circulation data can be put directly on the envelope. Libraries that use special envelopes they have purchased often attach a date-due slip or printed form to the front of the envelope. Often a copy of the transaction slip is attached. In any case the date due should be clear to the patron. Information is to remind the patron of the number of items should also be included so that it is easy to see that all checkout materials are returned.

Some libraries do not use carriers. In that case the date due may be stamped on the back cover or on the inside of the back cover of the work. Although this can be quite messy, it does give an indication of the number of times an item has circulated.

In some libraries the entire file or box of materials may be checked out. Often there will be a card and pocket on which the number of items is noted. Patrons can then check out the entire collection of materials. Closed boxes or envelopes with flaps, ties, or rubber bands should be considered for situations with this type of circulation.

Regardless of your policies, your system, and your process for circulation, it is important to make it easy for your patrons to use the materials from your supplementary files.

Summary recommendations
• Establish circulation policies regarding: loan period and late or lost materials.
• Choose a simple circulation system which will be easy for the user and will provide you with the information you need.

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