Sunday, October 6, 2013

IIWK: Speed-Reader Library Priority

That title pretty effectively sums it all up, but I'm going to add some detail anyway.

Essentially, there are two ways that I see that this can be done, but for both of them, two things have to happen first:

One, a testing program needs to be implimented. To be put on the priority list, the library patron first needs to be tested to ensure that they're eligible. The program would be rendered pointless if slow-readers were able to join the program.

Two, the reservation system needs to be adjusted to allow users who are eligible and enrolled in the program to elect whether or not they want to reserve the book under the priority system or not. There are undoubtably cases where even those who are capable of reading quickly can take a while to make it through a book due to scheduling, especially for longer material.

Method One: Priority Borrowing
This method is pretty straightforward. Any library patron who is eligible and chooses to reserve a book through this program gets bumped to the top of the list. While highly discriminatory, this method would be relatively easy to implement.

This method can actually have two subsets: one is to bump all speed-read-eligible patrons to the top of this list, in their own first-come-first-served list; the other is to sort them by testing score and borrowing history. Patrons who both read faster and have a history of returning books promptly would be given priority over those who read more slowly and/or take longer to return material.

For example of the second subset, two patrons who score very similarly on the speed-test would be closely placed on the list, however, if patron A typically returned books the day after checking them out, and the patron B usually took a few days, patron A would be given higher priority on the list.

Method Two: Squeeze Borrowing
This method requires a little more technical implementation, both in how the borrowing system works and how the list is programmed into the computer.

First, patrons are given priority for borrowing a book based on the traditional first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis. However, if a patron returns a book prior to its due date (as in multiple days, not just one or two), a the next patron on the list who is eligible for the speed-program and signed up to borrow the material through the program is offered to borrow the book for the remaining duration of the first borrower's period.

For example, for non-new books at my local library, the standard term for borrowing books is 30 days. If the book is returned within 20 days, and the next patron on the list is not registered to borrow the book through the special program, the next person who has reserved it through the program is given the offer to borrow the book for the remaining 9 days (one day is allotted for processing), after which normal overage charges would be accrued.

If the eligible patron declines to borrow the book for the reduced time, they remain at their normal FCFS priority, though may be given additional opportunities to jump ahead if patrons ahead of them once again return the book prior to the return date.

I would suggest, if the material is returned within three or fewer days of the due date by a normal patron, the speed-reader-eligible-patron would be allowed to borrow the book in-house only. That is, they would be allowed to sit within the library to read it, but would not be allowed to take it home.

Either of these methods would take careful implementation and additional necessary programming to make possible. I suspect it would be much easier to implement this into a new system rather than adding it into an existing system, especially with the second subset of the first method, which would require keeping a small history (or a rolling average) of any particular patron's material return history.

Also, selecting patrons for testing would have to be performed delicately in order to not offend slower readers. I would recommend sending mailings to patrons who both have enabled email or SMS notifications (the delay for standard mail would cut drastically into borrowing periods, especially for the second method), and who have a history of returning books well before their due date. I would also suggest allowing patrons signed up for the program to request to be retested after a required interval, such as six months or a year.