Member Libraries’ FAQ

We welcome questions from MLS members about this RFP.  Please send an email to

The latest questions are at the top.

Q 6:  Our library lends a significant number of DVDs and Books on CD to patrons at other libraries in the C/WMARS system. To cut down on the number and cost of items missing one or more discs coming back from other libraries, we have reverted (with positive results) to placing our barcode inside the covers of DVDs and Books on CD so that staff at all the libraries handling the item open the case and notice the contents (or lack thereof!). We are a small library with limited acquisition and staffing budgets and could use some suggestions on how to cover the staff and replacement costs associated with changing to exterior barcoding on these items.

A:  This issue has been discussed in meetings of the RFP Task Force and other groups interested in library delivery services.  We currently see this as a workflow and training issue that will affect all nine networks (not just CW/MARS).  When a network becomes a participant in sorting without delivery labels, an external barcode will be required.  The libraries, networks, MLS, and perhaps our delivery contractor need to examine this issue and design workflows, training, and systems that will lead to the elimination of this serious problem.

Q 5:  Our library is a member of C/WMARS (one of nine networks that will be included in automated sorting). How would our older materials which have barcodes inside the cover be sorted? Would we need to re-barcode all those items?

We have asked for a vendor solution to this in the RFP.  Please note, only items going into delivery will require an external barcode.  We believe that a large proportion of items in delivery are newer.  The Massachusetts Statewide Delivery Committee established a policy in March 2009 that all libraries on delivery were to place barcodes on the top left front of all materials.  We estimate that about 50% of items in delivery now have external barcodes.

Q 4: We are an independent library without an online catalog.  How will our library participate in automated sorting?

A:  Libraries without automation would participate as they have in the past–with labels.  The response to Question 2 (below) has more details on which libraries will be part of the automated sorting solution.

Q 3: We are an independent library. While we hope to become a consortium member in the future, the associated costs at this point are more than we can afford.

My questions are:
A. How would an auto-sort system incorporate the collections of an automated but non-consortium library?

Please see the answer 2 below for stand alone systems.

B. Assuming we would be able to participate in an auto-sort system, who would bear the costs associated with re-barcoding our entire collection to have the barcodes on the outside of the item (our 33,000 items presently have barcodes inside the covers and cases).

While this will not apply to libraries with stand alone systems, it will apply to networked libraries. In the RFP we ask potential vendors to propose solutions. However, it is unlikely that it will be necessary to rebarcode entire collections because not all items will be shipped to other libraries. However, a library may have other reasons to barcode items that are not shipped to other libraries, e.g., to ease the workload of circulation staff and self check users.

Q 2: As an academic library that participates in the current statewide delivery system, but does not currently check materials out to each individual library (rather we check materials out to a generic ILL patron and track them with ILLiad software.) I wonder how this might work for us. I imagine that other academics in the system may be in the same position. Would we need to create a patron for each library in Massachusetts? Has there been any testing of this type of system with an Aleph catalog?

A: Automated sorting based on an externally placed barcode will apply only to the nine largest networks, i.e., CW/MARS, Minuteman, NOBLE, MVLC, SAILS, OCLN, CLAMS, FLO, and MBLN. These systems will allow the automated sorting system to determine the destination after scanning the barcode and receiving destination information from the network. Items loaned and borrowed by libraries with stand alone systems and via the Statewide Virtual Catalog will not be sorted automatically in this project because of the complicated nature of determining destinations among multiple systems. For libraries like yours and for other non-automated libraries we have asked potential vendors to design an efficient work around. This might be using existing or some new labeling system or perhaps with some pre-printed barcode system.

Q 1: When you refer to barcodes used in automated sorting, does this mean an additional barcode, different from the one used for our network? I’ve seen a video of one system, and it looked as if the barcode was in the center of the front cover of the book.

A: No, there is no need to add a second barcode. The barcode used by libraries in networks that is placed on the front of each item in the top left corner is all that is required. This location was chosen by the Massachusetts Statewide Delivery Committee in March 2009. Other systems may choose other locations that also work well.

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