There’s been quite a few posts lately, led by LibraryMan, about whether or not libraries should replicate parts of NetFlix. Here’s some posts worth giving a read:

LibraryMan’s post was in response to those who believe all services should be free as it’s a public institution. David Lee King picks it up and discusses why some additional services could be charged for while the “core” services would remain free. There’s some debate in the comments which are worth reading.

Let me first start off and say that I use NetFlix and love the service. They’re prices have gone up over the years but it’s still at a point where I find it an attractive alternative to spending my entire life in World of Warcraft instead.

I personally would like to see all services as free. Having said that I can see where some libraries would need to charge for some expensive services they can’t afford but there’s a demand for. For example, there seem to be plenty of libraries that charge for ILL requests. Mailing heavy books isn’t the cheapest and some may be only able to cover part of the cost. If they’re able to keep it cheap then I would prefer a library offer the service versus not offering it at all because it can’t be done for free. There are probably even more libraries that charge for photocopies. A fee service is a fee service, no matter how small.

Another example is home delivery. Delivering books to people would not be the cheapest service to offer. It would also not have as high a use as other, cheaper services might. But there are likely people in the community who would benefit from such a service and who would be willing to pay alittle to get it. In talking with Alan Gray of Darien Library about this, he had an idea of using a box a month model. You get a box which you can have filled with whatever books you like. You pay a monthly fee and the box gets picked up and delivered. There was even the idea of piggy backing on local delivery services such as pizza and flowers to save a few dollars in personnel.

One of the ideas that commenters had a problem with was that of weighted holds. Paying to get to the top of the heap in that sense would likely not work out well. However, AADL is currently doing something related called Zoom Lends which from what I hear works well and is fairly popular. I’m not sure if I completely understand how it works but I’m sure Blyberg will correct me if not.

The general premise is that some popular books get LOTS of holds. The library itself has some sort of buying strategy where if there are so many holds for an item then they likely go out and get another copy. In addition to that they also have Zoom Lends shelves at the various libraries. On these shelfs are copies of popular books as well. If you pay a buck a week you get the ability to checkout from these shelves. No holds and no requests, if it’s there it’s yours, if not then there’s probably something else. I believe the lending period is also reduced for these. So the hold queue for the books stay the same but those in Zoom Lends collectively buy extra copies of books which they can checkout from. I almost see it as a library within a library.

In general I think libraries should strive to provide everything for free. Having said that, I believe there are some niche services that may be worthwhile to implement due to the people it could help, but which may require some sort of fee due to the low demand and cost to implement. If demand in the service grows then ways to fund it for free could likely be developed. If the service is never offered then there will likely never be enough demand to have it offered on a free basis.