Volume 28, Number 4, Winter 2006


Moving Mountains: A Report of the Symposium

By Brenda Bailey-Hainer, Bibliographic Center for Research (BCR), Denver

Over fifteen years of pent-up discussion burst loose Sept 14-15 at the Moving Mountains symposium, which focused on library courier services. The last symposium devoted to the topic of delivering library materials was sponsored by ASCLA and held in 1990. Participants at this recent event enthusiastically exchanged information, sample RFPs, pricing models, and marketing materials, and brainstormed about the potential for an expanded regional and/or national courier service. Over one hundred participants from twenty-nine states and three Canadian provinces attended.

Brenda Bailey-Hainer of BCR kicked off the symposium with a general overview of the courier landscape. Many different models for structure, governance, and funding are in place. She also provided a map with general information about parts of the U.S. that are served, and demonstrated a GIS (geographic information system) interactive map of selected courier users, showing how the stops from different couriers overlap or come close together in the central west and Midwest.

One of the most interesting aspects of the conference was the inclusion of commercial carriers as presenters. Most of them were members of the Express Carriers Association, the industry association for commercial carriers who operate in fifteen or fewer states. They provided an overview of the trends most affecting the carrier industry: fuel costs, tracking systems, GPS, and security systems, particularly in relation to the delivery of pharmaceuticals. Two major trends they predict will have a significant impact on the industry in the near future include the decline of film processing and banks moving to Check21, both of which have the potential to create permanent downturns in business for carriers. One carrier also provided tips on what to include in RFPs and how to evaluate a courier service once you have a contract in place.

Other highlights from the event included delivery veterans Bill DeJohn (MINITEX) and Bruce Smith (South Central Library System, Wis.) providing extensive detail on their operations and how the delivery service is priced to libraries. Sarah McHugh from the Montana Library Network and Cheryl Snowdon from OCLC provided a sneak preview of a home delivery pilot on which the two organizations will be partnering that is scheduled to start in November 2006. Lori Bowen Ayre gave a stimulating talk called "Library Delivery 2.0" designed to make participants think out of the box (or the delivery van) about how to best serve the current crop of patrons.

This symposium was just the beginning of an ongoing discussion on library delivery. Copies of presenters’ materials are being loaded on the symposium Web site. A discussion list devoted to the topic of physical delivery of library materials has been started, and information on how to subscribe is also posted on the Web site. A list of known library delivery services is being developed, and as they are identified, information on them will be posted to the Web site. Bailey-Hainer will be continuing her survey work to gather information about known couriers and what areas they serve. The effort to extend courier service more broadly throughout the U.S. and Canada will continue. Watch the Moving Mountains Web site for more information and updates.

Valerie Horton and Bruce Smith will be issuing a call for articles to be included in a monograph on library delivery that will be published by ASCLA. Participants from the symposium as well as others who are knowledgeable about library delivery are encouraged to contact Horton.