Dynamic / Floating Stock

Introduction

Stock in library management systems (LMS) is often tied to a “home branch”.  That is, if it is for whatever reason moved to another branch (for example, to satisfy a reservation or a member of the public returning it there) then the staff return it to the original “home” branch.  The home is decided when the new stock is divided up when it comes into the authority and is only changed by staff intervention, often in transfers to other branches in order to keep stock varied and fresh.  Although no systematic research has been undertaken, it is assumed that this “homing” approach is that taken by the large majority of authorities in the UK.

On the other hand, there is the system where stock does not return to a base branch.  The stock in this system automatically stays at that branch.  The LMS auto relocates stock to the branch where it was returned to or “last moved” at.  It is therefore still quite possible to see which copy of the book is where.

This page looks at the implications, pros and cons of both systems and ends with a case study.

I would be very interested to hear your views, experience of either system or any queries that you have.  Please send them on to me at ianlibrarian.live.co.uk and they will be used to improve this page.

The information in this article is based on knowledge of a homing system and feedback from library staff in Suffolk, Cornwall and Cambridgeshire, who all run dynamic systems.

Common exemptions

It’s possible to limit dynamism to particular areas of stock.  Cornwall started with adult fiction and junior fiction then added junior non fiction and talking books afterwards.  Adult non fiction is still homed. It seems common to keep homing local history stock. Similarly, the smallest branches and mobiles can be excluded due to limited shelf space.

Special collections are, quite logically, also often excluded e.g. reserve store, fiction reserve, visual arts, performing arts.

DVDs and computer games are excluded from dynamism in Cornwall, although the down side of this is that the titles lose display time on the shelves while they’re being transported back to their homes.

Pro

  • The public moves the stock for you – In homing systems, staff time and transport time is taken up in transferring all of the stock manually.  In a dynamic system, much of this stock transfer is done by the public themselves.
  • Reduced transport requirements. Dynamic authorities report the need for reduced transport, although it is hard to tell to what extent. Reservations need to be transported just once (to the reserving branch), rather than twice (to the reserver and then back to the home branch again). Books returned at the non-home branch by the borrowing member of the public will not need to be returned at home.  The Johnson County Library system in the USA recorded in the Library Journal in 2011 that the dynamic system cut over a third of transport costs.
  • Self-tailored stock – One theory is that dynamic stock will eventually mean branches will have stock that the public most wants in them.  However, this has not been strongly reported as the case in any example I have seen, although it makes some sense.
  • Reduces errors and staff time needed to correct them. The public (and less frequently staff) will often put books from other libraries into the wrong place, resulting in time consuming shelf checks to return the books to the right branch.  Dynamism naturally removes this problem, and time demand, entirely.
  • Stock is on display for longer – Stock does not spend extra days returning to its home branch, because it has no home branch.  This could theoretically have an impact on income when it comes to the latest feature films etc and will speed turnover of bookstock, especially latest bestsellers.
  • It’s cheaper.  Although there appears to have been no systematic analysis of this, it is assumed that dynamic stock is significantly cheaper to run than the homing system, in terms of saving in staff and transport time.

Con

  • Strong local collections – Stock will move anywhere under a dynamic system so any stock tailored for a particular branch will be dispersed.  However, it is possible to define parts of the stock as local so it will return to its home branch.  Cornwall reports that staff initially feared they would no longer know their stock when dynamism started there in 2008 but this appears not to be the case six years on.  One senior manager (not of any of the systems otherwise named) has registered concern that those systems with very stock strongly attuned to their neighbourhoods lose that under dynamic stock.
  • Redo all the date labels – If date labels are branch specific, as they often are in homing libraries, this makes no sense in a dynamic system.  On the other hand, making all the date labels look the same encourages a more professional corporate feel.  It is also possible to just change those books that have moved … so a change to dynamism does not mean that all the stock’s date labels have to be changed.

Case study: Suffolk

Suffolk have been using a dynamic stock system for a decade. This is where if someone borrows from a library and then returns at another branch, it is relocated to that branch. Same for reservations. Suffolk has 44 libraries of a mixture of sizes (3 being large, a few town libraries and a number of village libraries).

In practice, dynamism means that overall stock levels between libraries balances out. It has not caused any sucking of books into a particular branch, although it does not completely remove need to relocate items as quite easy to have a specialist interest skewing stock.

Locates stock to where there is demand for that stock is a theory but it is not entirely clear that it works that way.

Suffolk introduced at same time as free reservations as a way of balancing an expected increase in reservations with a reduction in moving other stock.

“Collection HQ” (SmartSM) is used so stock is still transferred automatically.  There is some tension between this and dynamic stock as it skews the figures a little but nothing major.

Suffolk uses Spydus but the system worked fine on OpenGalaxy until it was replaced two years ago. The system can tell some collections to be excluded from being dynamic and thus stock from that collection will always go back to one place. It is also possible to set it up in tiers so that stock is floating but only floats between certain sets of libraries.

Because there is no home branch, there is a countywide date label. The LMS automatically changes item location to the branch where returned.

Suffolk excludes audio-visual stock from dynamism. Children’s non-fiction is also not floating to ensure broad coverage in each library.

Stock budget – countywide approach to stock so don’t separate branch budget funds. Basic distribution profile (and supplier selection is used) used. Managed so new stock is proportionately sent out.

“Suffolk has had dynamic (aka floating) stock for ten years. We wouldn’t be without it.  It was introduced when we removed the reservations fees for Suffolk library books which led to an upsurge in books moving around. Rather than saving money, it mitigated any additional costs for us.” Alison Wheeler, General Manager, Suffolk Libraries, July 2014.  Quoted in Lis-Pub-Libs.

Library systems known to use dynamic stock

  • UK – Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall.  Wandsworth used the system but recently returned to homed stock.
  • New Zealand – Auckland
  • USA – Johnson County Library system
  • #1 written by Booling
    about 2 years ago

    The “self-tailored” stock concept is fine, but in reality it is likely to be individuals who “self-tailor” for a branch. For example, one customer can read, say, one book a week about Japanese history and quite likely their branch will home the authorities complete collection of books on Japanese history within a year or so.
    Of course that branch will probably then be spending time reallocating some of these to other branches, using staff time and transport.

    • #2 written by Ian Anstice
      about 2 years ago

      Absolutely. There would still be a need for weeding and transferring books especially if, as you say, a heavy-borrowing specialist messes up the balance of the stock (Suffolk told me this – apologies if we missed it). Of course, under static stock, we’d be doing this all the time anyway so it’s not necessarily an argument against dynamic stock.

  • #3 written by Linda Moffatt
    about 2 years ago

    This is one of the reasons why we don’t have dynamic non fiction in Cornwall. But our key achievement from dynamic stock has been to put different stock in front of our customers, in a time efficient, cost effective manner, accepting that we will have to relocate some silo’d stock. We have collectionHQ to do that, which by and large it does. With our current staffing levels, selective use of dynamic stock is essential.

  • #4 written by Karen Gibbins
    about 2 years ago

    We tried this a few years ago but it caused a lot of chaos as we put items in transit between libraries and the two things conflict. I am afraid we switched the feature off again quite quickly. May be we were hasty. I will keep reading any replies. Thanks for sharing.

  • #5 written by Anne Nicklen
    about 2 years ago

    We tried Dynamic Stock in our county the 2 issues we had were that the more rural branches were overwhelmed with stock and our prime authors would wiz off to a smaller branch then sit on the shelves rather than picking up issues in a larger branch, Then death knell of DS, though, was the introduction of CollectionHQ as the 2 systems seemed to us to be incompatible.

  • #6 written by Tim Coates
    about 2 years ago

    Moving books between libraries in this way is a complete waste of money and effort – aside from some rare special occasions it is much cheaper to buy a new copy of a book and have it sent straight to the library. (or even to the reader’s house)

    A fairly rudimentary analysis of the movement that takes place at present and the costs involved will demonstrate this.

    Library authorities should not pay for tiny little local distribution networks, with vans and storerooms and people and systems – that is exactly the kind of saving that can be pursued without diminishing service at all.. If something special really has to be transferred, send it in the post (or get a volunteer to take it on the bus, if you have to ).

    It’s also much better to share Library Management Systems (and save money) than to try to eek out the use of the small amount of stock that libraries have left. Where do these ideas come from?

  • #7 written by Ivana Curcic
    about 2 years ago

    This was before my time, so I don’t know the details. I know that we also tried with dynamic stock but changed to static stock. I suspect we did not create exceptions to categories but moved everything around. I was told that it did not create balanced collections. Working in a small library, in our case, it is easy to know what interests people who borrow many books have. As Tim Coates pointed out, if there is a great interest for a book in our branch library, it is often cheaper to buy it.

  • #8 written by Di Brooker
    about 2 years ago

    Devon looked at this a number of years ago, but the LMS was not flexible enough to allow us to restrict DS to the required level ie: certain stock categories, certain branches etc. Reading the article and subsequent comments seems to indicate that improvements have been made. Roll on our new LMS!!
    It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the research and read further feedback.

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