W. John MICHALSKI
Exchange Program at the Library of Congress. Changes, Expectations and Prognosis
In an effort to accelerate the improvement of the book exchange program between the United States and the global community, the Library of Congress has enacted a system entitled the Duplicate Materials Exchange Program (DMEP). The constructs of the original program concepts were improved from its predecessor having less capable attributes of its primary function. The exchange responsibilities of each Section of the Acquisitions Division were transformed to the new centralized DMEP function that provided a more structured way of handling the exchange of books. The system originally used printed material lists to announce available books, and helped provide a formal method of exchanging available literature. The original lists were printed and distributed as necessary; a structured bi-annual schedule for the distribution of exchange lists was incepted with DMEP. The exchange lists are distributed throughout most regions of the world instilling continued interest in maintaining ongoing exchanges of books with the Library of Congress. The Web-based version of the DMEP was incepted in August of 2005; the greater efficiencies provided have been greatly accepted as fruitful advancements in the capability of providing larger numbers of books to our current exchange partners.
This paper presents an historical accounting of the recognition of the need to modernize an outdated inefficient Library exchange system into a system that would provide exchange partners with real time Web-based information concerning listings of the availability of in-print subject publications. The new system would then provide electronic request capability that would methodically provide fast efficient transfers of books between participating members of the DMEP system.
Problems Prompting Changes
Prior to the break up of the Soviet Union, students of many leading national and international universities relied on the inventory of books available at the Library of Congress. Since that period, a decrease in readership has initiated a change in policies and procedures for the streamlining of the upkeep of current book collections.
A key element of the new business idea was switching from acquiring material from exchange partners to purchasing from book vendors who represented the Library's interest in those particular countries. Purchasing books was found to be less time consuming than the man-hours required performing complex exchange transactions.
In the past, former Soviet Block countries prohibited the easy availability of printed materials as they were not for sale. The acquisition staff had to maintain direct communications with government institutes and state agencies to allow for the distribution of publications.
As the advancement of technology allowed for faster communications and larger accessible inventories of information to researchers and readers grew, the Library's value and its commitment to being a leading provider of information was challenged due to enhanced proximity boundaries and increased expediencies of information handling.
Potential researchers and readers having the capability of remote access available through the use of Web-based technology have begun to prefer on-line research over traditional methods. The usage of the Library's reading rooms had declined during the last ten years.
The former book exchange program was not capable of meeting the increased demands of material transfers between the Library's and its exchange partners. Numerous workload imbalances between acquisition sections and their staff concerning the production and content of exchange lists mounted within the Library's Acquisitions Department. For example, the requirements for the frequency of exchange list publications could not be met due to resource staffing shortages. Another ongoing problem was the limited space available for storing the increased influx of books acquired by the Library.
The process of acquiring books required their temporary storage, because they needed to be listed on exchange lists. The tremendous influx of books in relation to the Library's storage capacity caused major problems; the lapse of time between the publication of exchange lists and the distribution of books required about 12 months, creating a problem with providing current and valid book printings, particularly when considering the fast moving advances in science and technology. In retrospect, the combined problems of lack of storage space and the influx of books produced a major bottleneck in processing the acquisition of a book and its final distribution to exchange partners in a timely manner.
Before the implementation of DMEP, in the year 1999, the Library began its modernization with the implementation of an Integrated Library System (ILS); the Library of Congress's version of this system named Voyager combines all Library functions including fiscal administration, acquisition, and cataloging. This effort instituted the first step towards automating the Library's processes. For the first time the main catalog was available to the public on-line, beyond the walls of the Library.
The use of ILS permitted the check-in of periodicals, which allowed for their identification and tracking within the Library system. With the new structure of the institution's organization, some functions of the Serials Record Division of the Library of Congress were decentralized, and new materials delivered to the Library were routed to the Acquisitions Sections where material from around the world were reviewed, bar coded and entered into ILS, and recorded as checked in items. As a result of the decentralization of check-in section, a large number of staff will be reassigned from the Serial Record Division to other divisions within the Library.
In 2002, the initiative of Business Process Improvement (BPI) was introduced. The BPI initiative was spearheaded and driven by a group of specialized staff who concentrated on improving the work flow for the selection and sorting of new materials, and their final distribution handling. The BPI initiative led to the program initiative known as DMEP.
The new system was part of a business improvement project that was involved with creating and implementing new technologies that would enhance the efficiency of the Library's exchange program. The system also automated the handling and final distribution of duplicate books that arrived to the Library as required under copyright law. Every American based publisher is required to provide at least two copies of each of their publications that bear a Copyright notice.
The pre Web-based version of DMEP centralized the location of exchange tasks including the storage for approximately 30,000 books. No longer would individual Acquisition Sections be responsible for selecting, storing and distributing exchange lists. An exception to the requirement maintained the original responsibility of all Acquisition Sections to continue receiving exchange materials from foreign partners. Each item received is logged and tracked to a quota system, whereby credit is given to the exchange partner.
Additional fundamental requirements of DMEP included the reformatting of information displayed on exchange lists including a reduction to twelve subject categories. DMEP also required the reduction of distribution list publications to a bi-annual basis, whereas prior requirements called for distribution on an ad hoc basis by each section of the Acquisitions Division. In contrast to prior policy, books would not be introduced on similar exchange lists within the Library system; other material handling improvements allowed for the review and removal of books from the Library. The books not selected for continued storage were removed from the central repository, and sent to the donation program maintained by the Library of Congress for American libraries. Further, DMEP reduced the number of inactive exchange partners from the exchange program; in the case of Poland from 200 to 150; in all cases, the Library reduced the remaining countries from about 10 to 15% of their original participants. DMEP now allows for a more rigorous accounting of exchange quotas between the Library of Congress and its exchange partners. As an example of an exchange program policy, it is required that for each monograph that is exchanged, the Library will compensate an exchange partner with one monograph, and in consideration of the exchange of periodicals, two monographs would be allowed in exchange for each of those. But this, however, may change in the future.
Before the realignment of DMEP, there had already been many improvements in the Library system, which had been precipitated from the efforts of DMEP. Currently DMEP handles over 3,000 exchange partners from which approximately 28,000 books have been shipped; approximately 2,800 books were received by Polish exchange partners. However, the most important fact of the new DMEP exchange program is that it enabled the ability to transform the concept of DMEP to a computer driven Web-based book ordering system.
The improvements that have been integrated into the exchange program from the advancement of DMEP include having the ability to access a dynamic automated ordering system that is menu driven through Web-based technology. This allows fast and efficient processing of books with minimal errors. The stocking of books are managed aggressively, and their availability are published by subject category on the Web, thereby allowing exchange partners to know what is immediately available and have claim to their materials of interest through the ordering system.
Due to the value added efficiencies that have been made possible by the technology used in the DMEP program, the Library anticipates a significant Return on Investment (ROI). For example, a savings of approximately 12,000 dollars has been realized, because of the elimination of printing exchange lists alone. Additional expected visible cost savings that can be associated with the current increase on the use of e-commerce will be realized through the continued use of DMEP.
Some of these costs savings have been gained by organizational changes as personnel are trained to be more efficient using an Automated Information System (AIS) that requires less staffing than the traditional paper driven business operations that have been used throughout the Library's exchange system history.
In addition to the DMEP program, the Library of Congress is exploring other changes in the way it does business by employing other technology systems. One such system entitled the International Electronic Exchange Initiative will allow for the exchange of e-journals while creating an international cooperative for the exchange of these materials.
This program involves international cooperation in building the world's largest database of scholarly electronic journals. In conjunction with Germany's University of Regensburg, the Library of Congress will manage a consortium of more than 300 research libraries that have pooled their bibliographic metadata; this concept will reduce costs by the elimination of duplicated efforts. The long-term goal of this project is to further reduce library costs by broadening and deepening international collaboration through which libraries share their workloads and experience.
Still another pilot project is exploring having book suppliers create fully cataloged shelf-ready books; this allows a Library to provide immediate use of books upon their delivery.
Having the book suppliers completing these functions that were traditionally performed by Library staff and domestic vendors allows for shorter processing time.
These are only a few of the many advancements that the Library is considering to remain innovative and meet the challenges of the Twenty-first Century instilled by the increased usage of worldwide knowledge that is being made possible by centralized database technologies and e-commerce