Delivery FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Updated March 2014
General Delivery Questions
Which Holidays affect Delivery?
How do I fill out a blank transit slip for ILL/Virtual catalog items?
What if I can’t find my delivery destination on the delivery index?
What do I do with misrouted material?
How should I attach a transit slip?
What should I do if an item arrives in delivery damaged?
What should I do if an item does not arrive in delivery?
Can I send items to libraries outside of my network?
What should I do if my delivery has not arrived at its scheduled time and I didn’t receive an email announcing a delay?
What should I do if my library has an unscheduled closure or is inaccessible for delivery?
How do I sign up to receive delivery announcements via the delivery email list?
Barcode Placement Questions
What is the External Barcoding Policy that was established in 2009?
Is my library required to retrospectively place barcodes in the new standard location?
My library is not a member of a network. Do we need to follow the barcode policy?
My library is following the Barcoding Policy, but we have a number of barcodes on the back. Do we have to re-barcode these?
My library has been bundling items to simplify sorting. Should we continue?
My library has been presorting items to speed delivery. Should we continue?
How can I obtain a barcode duplicator?
Sort to Light Questions
What is sort-to-light?
Why are we trying to end the use of labels?
When will my network convert to sort-to-light?
Please explain the 75 percent threshold of items externally barcoded as a requirement for network participation in sort-to-light.
Are there other requirements for a network to implement sort-to-light?
How will the implementation of sort-to-light be done?
If a library puts an item into a delivery bin that should have been kept in their library on the Hold shelf for a patron, what will happen?
What happens if an item in the bins is not in an In Transit status when it is scanned by Optima?
What happens if an item in the bin is in transit to a different network via the Virtual Catalog?
My library has branches. Will Optima be providing sorting and delivery for my library’s branches?
What are the other benefits of sort-to-light?

General Delivery Questions

Which Holidays affect Delivery?

There will be no delivery on the following Holidays:

Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving Day
Christmas Day
New Year’s Day
Martin Luther King Day
Presidents’ Day
Patriot’s Day
Memorial Day

How do I fill out a blank transit slip for ILL/Virtual catalog items?

When sending items to libraries, in order to fill or return ILL/Virtual requests, use the delivery index found on our webpage http://www.masslibsystem.org/deliveryindex.htm Make sure you use the specified regional slip (B, C, M, N, S, or W) and fill in the first line with the identification information found in the yellow portion of the delivery index. Sorters have difficulty attempting to determine the destination based on the Virtual Catalog Band. If there is any uncertainty, the item will be shipped to the owning library.

What if I can’t find my delivery destination on the delivery index?

If the library you are sending items to is not on the index then they do not receive delivery and the item must be returned by another method, e.g. USPS.

What do I do with misrouted material?

Put it back in delivery. Mis-sorted items will be recollected and resorted to the correct destination. If they have no delivery label they will be returned to the owning library. If you have been receiving mis-sorted items on a regular basis, please contact MLS at delivery@masslibsystem.org.

How should I attach a transit slip?

When putting items in delivery place transit slips firmly inside book, CD case, DVD case, etc. with the sorting region and destination clearly labeled and visibly sticking out. If the binding is not strong enough to hold the transit slip then the use of a rubber band or alternative packaging is acceptable to secure the item.

Keep in mind that most items are shipped without packaging or rubber banding. If you have an item, such as magazines or media cases, that are more likely to be damaged or opened during shipping, please use alternative packaging. A reasonable amount of wear and tear during shipping is expected and is part of doing business.

Acceptable Alternative Packaging:

  • Protective Cases
  • Padded Envelopes
  • Manila Envelopes
  • One to two rubber bands (to secure the transit slip)

When sending items out, please avoid the use of:

  • Staples
  • Tape (on items)
  • Glue (on items)
  • Plastic Bags
  • Small Envelopes (they can easily get lost in delivery)

What should I do if an item arrives in delivery damaged?

Click here to view our Best Practices Lost Damaged Items

Verify that the damage did not occur before the item was placed in delivery. If you are the owning library and you determine the item was damaged while in transit, send it to the MLS- Marlborough Office, using a “C” routing slip, Attention: Caitlin and fill out a claim form on our webpage using the Online Claim Form.

If you are the borrowing library, please send the item back to the owning library and notify them of the issue. They can submit a claim as described above.

What should I do if an item does not arrive in delivery?

Click here to view our Best Practices Lost Damaged Items

Verify that the sending library did indeed send the item out into delivery. If you are the owning library and you determine the item was placed in delivery and has not arrived at your library within 2 months you may also fill out an Online Claim Form.

If you are the borrowing library, please contact the owning library so they can submit a claim as described above.

Please notify MLS if an item for which you have submitted a claim turns up so we can stop the reimbursement process or cancel the claim by emailing caitlin@masslibsystem.org.

If you notice that a pattern of missing items has developed, particularly for media such as DVDs, CDs, or games, notify the MLS office immediately.

Can I send items to libraries outside of my network?

Yes. The purpose of a statewide delivery system is to provide easy quick service between all areas of the State. When sending items to a different network, please make sure to use the correct routing slip in order to ensure it arrives expediently. Use the Delivery Index found on our webpage.

Make sure you use the specified regional slip (B, C, M, N, S, or W) and fill in the first line with the identification information found in the yellow portion of the delivery index.

What should I do if my delivery has not arrived at its scheduled time and I didn’t receive an email announcing a delay?

If your delivery has not arrived by its scheduled time, please check the Delivery Daily Updates page. If your route is not listed as running behind, please contact MLS at (866) 627-7228. You may also sign up for the Delivery Updates listserv by emailing delivery@masslibsystem.org. On this listserv you will receive route delay updates.

What should I do if my Library has an unscheduled closure or is inaccessible for delivery?

Call Optima’s Customer Service line 781-569-0201 or email customerservice@shipoptima.com and inform them of the timeframe your library will be closed or inaccessible. For extended closures, additional measures may be required. If you are unsure, please contact our office (866) 627-7228.

How do I sign up to receive delivery announcements via the delivery email list?

To be added to the delivery email list, please email delivery@masslibsystem.org. Please make sure at least one person from your library receives emails. We periodically put out important policy information and pertinent changes.

Please note we have two delivery lists. One is for policy and general updates. We have a second for daily route updates for when a delivery route is running late. Route information is also available on our website if you do not wish to receive email updates. Please specify to which email list you would like to be subscribed.

Barcode Placement

What is the External Barcoding Policy that was established in 2009?

The External Barcoding Policy established in 2009 requires items’ barcodes to be placed horizontally on the upper left corner of the front of the item.

Is my library required to retrospectively place barcodes in the new standard location for items purchased before the policy was established in 2009?

No. However, many libraries have found other good reasons to do so. The first reason being that it is easier to place a barcode on an outgoing item once than it is to continually place a delivery slip in it for shipping. Reason two: it is helpful to circulation staff in all libraries for barcodes to be in a uniform location.

My library is not a member of a network. Do we need to follow the barcode policy?

No, we do not have the ability to provide your library with label-less sorting and do not require compliance with the barcode placement policy. However, this policy also enhances efficiency for circulation and self-check operations and you might consider it for these reasons.

My library is currently following the External Barcoding Policy, but we have a number of items with barcodes on the back. Do we have to re-barcode these items?

If the items pre-date 2009 when the External Barcoding Policy was set, you do not have to re-barcode items that have barcodes displayed horizontally on the upper left corner of the back cover. When shipping, place these items “barcode up” in the tote. Items after 2009 must comply with the External Barcoding Policy, with barcodes displayed horizontally on the upper left corner of the front cover.

Items that have the barcode displayed vertically must be re-barcoded or a slip must be used regardless of when the item went into circulation.

My library has been bundling items to simplify sorting. Should we continue?

No, this activity is not necessary. However, it is permissible if you wish to continue doing so.

My library has been presorting items to speed delivery. Should we continue?

No, this activity is not necessary. However, it is permissible if you wish to continue doing so.

How can I obtain a barcode duplicator?

MLS purchased 15 duplicators to make available to libraries to facilitate compliance with the barcode placement policy. Rental of the duplicators is $20/month and the rental time is based on a library’s delivery volume as determined by the most recent delivery survey. For information on renting a duplicator, please contact Caitlin Davis.

For information on purchasing a duplicator, please contact Catherine Utt.

Sort to Light

What is sort-to-light?

Sort-to-light is a semi-automated sorting technology that allows libraries to ship materials without requiring a label to indicate the item’s destination.

Our studies indicate that elimination of this step shortens the time for processing an item for delivery at the circulation desk by one-third, i.e., a transaction with a label takes six seconds while a label-less transaction takes four seconds.

Sort-to-light technology is not new. It has been used for many years in other industries where it is also referred to as pick-to-light. This is the first implementation of sort-to-light technology in a library logistics setting. In MLS’s case it works thus: an employee (sorter) at the contractor’s distribution center opens a tote full of unsorted materials shipped by a library. The sorter scans a barcode located on the front of the item with a wrist-worn scanner. The scanner polls the shared integrated library system (ILS) at a remote site via the Internet. The ILS responds with a SIP2 message which indicates the destination for that item (similar to a transaction with a self-check station). An LED light flashes to indicate to the sorter into which tote in the sorting rack to place the item. This technology allows for the separation of materials by other characteristics, e.g., items “on-hold” versus “returns.” The sort-to-light technology employed for MLS includes error detection to improve sorting accuracy.

Why are we trying to end the use of labels?

To make library processing more efficient and waste less paper. Our studies indicate that label-less sorting is one-third faster than label-based sorting. Each labeling transaction takes six seconds. Each label-less transaction takes four seconds. Over a year this saves over 8,000 hours of staff time annually across the Commonwealth.

In addition, it is greener. We estimate that Massachusetts libraries use about four inches of label paper for each of the 15 million items shipped annually. This is equivalent to more than 900 miles of label paper annually.

When will my network convert to sort-to-light?

SAILS was converted in 2010. Minuteman was converted in November 2011. OCLN and CLAMS were converted in January/February 2012. MVLC was converted in June/July 2012. CWMARS was converted in July/August 2013. NOBLE was converted in February 2014.

FLO and MBLN are scheduled to convert in 2014.

We have not yet determined a schedule for MassCat.

Please explain how the 75 percent threshold of items in delivery works. We heard that this is required for network participation in sort-to-light.

When a network’s preferred start date for sort-to-light is approaching, Optima will sample materials that are shipped by that network’s members. Staff will count total items and the number of items with barcodes in the standard location. If the percentage of items with standard barcodes is at or above 75 percent of the total, then the network is eligible to implement sort-to-light. If the percentage is not at 75 or higher, the network is not yet eligible. We believe that all networks will reach this threshold eventually as older items are no longer shipped. This could take years, however. If the members of a network want to accelerate reaching the 75 percent threshold, they could begin retrospectively placing barcodes in the standard location by providing a method for this at delivery points that would affect the percentage, e.g., in the busiest libraries.

Are there other requirements for a network to implement sort-to-light?

There are two other important criteria. First, the network’s system must be compatible with Optima’s sort-to-light system. Usually this is easily accomplished with the SIP2 standards used by many self-check devices. The second is that all members of a network must comply with the statewide barcode placement policy for new materials.

How will the implementation of sort-to-light be done?

When a network reaches the 75% threshold of externally barcoded items, Optima will begin working with the network’s administration to establish the connection with the ILS. After the preliminary testing is completed, Optima will begin testing with selected libraries, gradually increasing the number of libraries being sorted with sort-to-light until all libraries within a network are “live”.

When your network makes this transition to sort-to-light, you will be able to put items that are externally barcoded according to the 2009 barcode policy into delivery without a routing slip. For items that do not have a barcode or the barcode is not in the proper place, you can still use routing slips to send the items through delivery For items with barcodes on the back, upper-left corner that pre-date 2009, you may place these items upside-down (so the barcode is visible) instead of using a delivery slip. For additional information, please refer to the Barcode Placement section of the FAQ.

If a library puts an item into a delivery bin that should have been kept in their library on the Hold shelf for a patron, what will happen?

The item will get sorted back to that library. The system information doesn’t change, so the system thinks that the item should be at the library awaiting a hold. The system tries not to assume too much so this falls within the design for lack of information. The system is designed to default to the hold location in this event.

What happens if an item in the bins is not in an In Transit status when it is scanned by Optima?

It depends. In general one of two things will happen to it:

  1. It will go to the intended library.
  2. It will go to its home library (without the destination info and the system defaults to the home library).

The ultimate destination will depend upon the item’s current status. For example, if the item is supposed to be on hold at a particular library, it will default to that library (see question above). If the item is supposed to be on its home library’s shelve and was mistakenly put into delivery, it will default to the home library.

What happens if an item in the bins is in transit to a different network via the Virtual Catalog?

Items leaving to go to a library participating in the Virtual Catalog would read as In Transit to the location “URSA”. These items will require a transit slip in order to determine destination.

Virtual Catalog labels alone do not provide enough information for sorters to determine an items destination. When sending items outside of your network via the Virtual Catalog or “point to point” please remember to use a MLS delivery Routing Slip

Also remember to use the MLS Delivery Index to correctly label items

For additional information on Virtual Catalog items, please refer to the General Delivery questions.

My library has branches. Will Optima be providing sorting and delivery for my library’s branches?

Your library is responsible for inter-branch shipping. Once a Network transitions to sort-to-light, Optima will provide sorting for library branches to be delivered to the Main library. It is then the responsibility of the library to provide inter-branch delivery of its items.

Additionally, your library will still be responsible for sorting internal materials destined for one of your branches. Optima is only responsible for branch sorting of items traveling through its sort facility from other libraries.

What are the other benefits of sort-to-light?
Sort-to-light can also provide an additional level of sorting accuracy and sorting levels. For example, MLS has agreed to provide separate sorting for holds and returns to the 55 libraries in the state with the highest delivery volume. Additionally, Optima can work with libraries to provide sorting based on departments. Any additional level of sorting is at the library’s expense, with the exception of holds and returns for the top 55 libraries. To find out if your library is one of the top 55, please refer to this list.

If your questions are not answered by the policy or FAQ, please contact us at delivery@masslibsystem.org.