Mary Lee KennedyNew Yorkers and the world count on us. They count on us for free access to information and expertise that is not available anywhere else, or by any other means. If you look at our “Just the Facts” page you’ll get a quick sense of the significant use of the collections, programs, and services. Last year we held 55,140 programs in our 91 libraries, with 1,168,127 people in attendance. During the same time 28 million items circulated, 18 million visits were made to our buildings, and 32 million visits were made to our website. This is one busy place and all are welcome.
Together with partners we’re committed to users now and tomorrow. We have over 51 million items covering human thought from the beginning of the printed word to today. But information continues to expand at an exponential rate and knowledge is a global resource. With partners such as the New York Department of Education, CUNY, Columbia, NYU, Princeton and other information stewards like the Digital Public Library of America and HathiTrust we are committed to our mission of providing a beneficial service forever.
To ensure we are providing great service, we are continually finding ways to listen to our users. And when we hear about dissatisfaction with the Library we take it seriously, very seriously. Recently we heard from some users that it has been taking too long for some research books to arrive when requested. We also heard that researchers need more quiet spaces and reserved spaces to use a selection of materials over several days.
I’d like to share with you what we are doing about these concerns.
We’re committed to ensuring that requested research items are delivered in a timely and predictable manner.
We’ve heard that in the past delivery of requested research materials to the Schwarzman Building has been slow and in some casesthe wrong items are delivered. We reviewed our onsite and offsite storage systems to identify the problems. About 86 percent of requested materials come from the onsite storage system. The remaining requests are for materials held offsite.
There are approximately 1.5 million volumes stored in library stacks under Bryant Park. This is in addition to the millions of items available in the research centers and divisions, and the 700,000 items available online in the Digital Collections. During a recent test of onsite item delivery we averaged delivery times of 14-23 minutes. Not all items have been delivered in a timely way. We have had trouble with our mechanical system. An upgrade of our system over the next year will ensure we deliver materials within 20- 30 minutes 100 percent of the time. When we don’t we will make sure you know the status of your request and when you can expect to receive the material requested.
Like most large research libraries we must use offsite shelving to accommodate and preserve ever-growing collections. The least requested Library materials have been stored offsite for about 50 years. Our commitment is to deliver requested offsite materials within one business day when requests are received by 2:30 p.m. and within two business days when requests are received after 2:30 p.m. Our internal review shows that 85 percent of all materials requested from offsite shelving are delivered to the Schwarzman Building within one business day. Almost no requests take more than two-three days to deliver to the Rose Main Reading Room. Most materials delivered in the two-three day timeframe are requested after the 2:30 p.m. cutoff. We are evaluating the steps we can take to get materials into people's hands faster.
In our review we identified two offsite storage behaviors requiring improvement: a) the way in which citations are registered from the request to our offsite storage team, and b) the process for notifying the user and getting the materials into your hands.
In the first case we’re working with our technology team to make it simpler to register an accurate citation and we’re working with the offsite team to reduce the number of mismatched requests. In the second case we’re working on a notification system that emails you when material reserved under your name (known as a Hold) is about to expire so you can plan your visit, and we are reviewing our request receipt process to eliminate the gap in time between when the material is received and you are notified about its availability. We’re piloting the second system now with plans to implement system-wide in the first half of 2014. We’re assessing possible timelines for the first.
Additionally, we’re working on improved delivery of research materials among all of our research centers. We want to make sure materials can get to you, rather than you having to travel all over the city to get to them. Our goal is to put this into effect in 2014.
We’re committed to the best research user experience – and that includes space use.
In 2012, we had more than 850 responses to a survey of researchers who have recently used NYPL’s research collections. Seventy-three percent of the respondents indicated an interest in having access to dedicated spaces with special amenities and services for research and writing. From this survey and from one-on-one researcher interviews, we know you need more places for quiet study such as individual carrel seating, reservable rooms for group study or collaboration, and digital tools for collection use and building like scanners. We’re looking at what we can do in the Schwarzman Building in 2013-2014. In addition to the Allen Room, this past year we opened up the Shoichi Noma room for quiet study and research. We are looking at other space use for researchers. We’re also assessing technology support that would be useful to you.
Here’s how you can help us help you. If you use the “Plan Your Visit” tips, it will make it easier to ensure you have what you need when you come to use the materials. We’ve set up a research services hotline at AskNYPL that can be accessed by clicking here, by phone (917-ASK-NYPL / 917-275-6975) or by texting 66746. Ann Thornton, the Andrew W. Mellon director, will make sure that any and all concerns are addressed. She and her team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Library is at its best when you can count on free, open access to information in the pursuit of knowledge, and the best possible user experience for anyone and everyone. We are committed to these two important values – today and tomorrow.