IUG 2001 Conference Proceedings

Table of Contents

Session: L9/N7

Do You Know Where Your Books Are? Using the Inventory Control Product

Ruth Helwig, Central Michigan University

Ruth began by describing the goals of CMU's Library in conducting their inventory. They were interested in improving the accuracy of the database and in their ability to assess the collection, to identify missing and misshelved items, to correct circulation inaccuracies, and perhaps to identify and correct other situations that might arise. At the time of the inventory, the library was under going a renovation and the stacks were closed; it was a good time for an inventory/cleanup project.

Some other background information that Ruth gave was that all record numbers referred to in the handout are from the Release 2000 User Manual, that for the inventory project they were using three Percon B321 portable barcode readers from Innovative, that they used a lot of student assistants do this project, and that they formed a small committee of interested staff to help guide the project. This committee included members from Technical Services, who would handle problems with items and their records, the system administrator, Circulation staff, who would handle circ problems, a collection development person, and the personnel who were actually conducting the inventory. They met as needed, which was only a few times.

Ruth recommended that before beginning the inventory, the shelves should be read as thoroughly as possible; it makes the inventory go quicker and the reports are cleaner. The process itself began with student assistants working in pairs using the B321s to scan all of the books. They worked in 1 1/2 to 2 hour shifts, scanning about 300 to 500 books and transferring the data to the Innopac [via the B321 software on a PC then via FTP to the Innopac server]. Ruth mentioned that they used FTP Serv-U, which was very easy and useful. The students would then run the inventory report [from the Innopac] and return with it to the stacks. There they would look for missing and misshelved items and take problems back to the supervisor.

The staff developed several forms to assist with workflow during the inventory project. These included forms for keeping track of which parts of the collection had been inventoried and searching for missing items. Examples of some of the forms are included in the online presentation.

CMU Library staff were generally pleased with the accuracy of the inventory reports. They did color code errors for ease in handling. For example, missing books were highlighted in yellow on the report. They found that very small books often showed up as missing although they were on the shelf because they had been inadvertently skipped over during the scanning stage. Ruth also discussed the various status messages that can show on the inventory report. Messages look like "OK on shelf" and "ERR missing." Ruth included a list of these messages in the online presentation.

Ruth shared a list of tips [which are included in the online presentation] that will make such an inventory project go more smoothly. These included things like having lots of batteries and knowing when and how to change them for the B321s, expect the unexpected with errors, use function keys and macros to automate whatever you can, and develop a process to deal with materials returned during the inventory. She also discussed the inventory date that goes into item records. You may have to coordinate with Innovative if the inventory date is not available in the create list function. Also, once the bulk of a section is done, you have to handle getting the inventory date in 'straggler' items one at a time, via an alternate method. During the presentation, an Innovative staff member noted that libraries can work with Innovative to make the inventory date field updatable through the rapid update process. She also referred folks to an inventory program presented by Mieko Yamaguchi at IUG a couple of years ago, at http://www.rodman.lib.oh.us/iug/inventory/. Ruth also suggested have procedures in place for dealing with cleanup of the files the inventory process leaves behind. For example, files moved from the B321s to a PC stay on the PC until you remove them. They same is true with the files transferred to the Innopac. She further recommends keeping all of your inventory report printouts, in shelflist order, for a while, even after the project is done; they may come in handy. They further had a process in place for checking again for items not on the shelf on the first scanning pass. After three checks over about three weeks, they made the book lost; if you do this there is also the consideration of whether these items need to be suppressed from the OPAC, replaced in the collection, etc.

In conclusion, Ruth told us that her library believed that this had been a worthwhile project. They were able to identify and clean up the database as a whole. In addition, they were able to identify and correct problems on individual items, including barcode and label problems. Finally, they concluded that this should be an on-going project to keep things in better order and handle problems in a more timely fashion.

Ruth's presentation is available in PowerPoint on the web at http://www.lib.cmich.edu/staff/iug/2001.

Lynnette Erhardt, Tulsa (OK) City-County Library