Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hold & Overdue Messages

Hi. We just started a new service for sending out holds and overdue notices and I thought you should hear about it.

We have been looking for ways to cut costs and have been discouraged about the costs associated with sending paper mailers for holds and overdues. I found about this service from the good folks at the North Valley Public Library in Stevensville and we thought we would give it a try. We have just finished our trial period and love it. There is no going back to mailers for us.

We started this service with OneCallNow ( After speaking with NVPL, I called OCN and was directed to a nice, and very helpful, sales person. After asking a lot of questions about what we needed to accomplish, she got me started on how to setup what I need. She got us started with a 30 day trial of the service and pointed me to the website where I could our service configured. I was a little confused at first about how things would work, but the website is very helpful.

We use one of many features available called a “canned call”. Our patrons get a phone call with a generic prerecorded message stating they have a hold at our library. Or a different message that they have an overdue. Here is how it works.

I started by logging into their website and registering information about our institution and setting up the procedures for a canned call. Then I had one of our librarians with a beautiful, friendly voice record the two messages we would be sending. She did this just by calling a phone number and speaking the message into the phone.

Then the talented Mike Price at the state library was able to use the same criteria used to create our hold and overdue Workflows reports to create a document with the appropriate phone numbers formatted in a manner suitable for OneCallNow. We setup a procedure whereby the documents automatically find their way to the librarian’s computer, but this could also be done simply by creating an appropriate Workflows report.

So now, every day, an MPL librarian finds the new daily documents on her PC, opens them up to verify the correct formatting, sometimes making minor changes. Then she logs into the OCN website and uploads the documents. That’s it.

All the phone calls are made within minutes. If a person answers the call, they hear the message. If a machine answers, the message is left on the machine. If there is no answer, OCN will try 12 times over 12 hours before giving up. When the process is finished, we get an email with stats about how many calls succeeded and failed, and which numbers are which.

We used to spend 44 cents first class postage per mailer, taking about an hour of staff time daily, plus the cost of the paper mailers, and the expensive equipment, sometimes requiring maintenance. Now it is 8 cents per call, taking 15 minutes daily of staff time, utilizing no equipment or consumables. It’s a no- brainer.

We do get some complaints, but a very low percentage, and involving issues we are still tweaking and improving. We think it’s a great service. Feel free to call me or one of the folks in the circulation department if you want to find out more about this. Or call OneCallNow with your questions. That’s it for today.


Kathy said...

Before we migrated to the MSC, we had an automated phone service and not only did we love it but so did our patrons. They really miss it. The patrons got overdue and hold notices as well as telephone renewal. For those folks that will never have internet, telephone renewal was a godsend.

I talked to Ken Adams about it and in January he got a quote from Sirsi for automated telephone messaging for the entire MSC. It was about $24,500 set-up and 1st year service, then $4,000 a year after. It was not in the MSC budget.

Maybe a few interested libraries could share the setup cost. The yearly service fee might be very affordable to share by the whole consortium.

Leslie R said...

Hi Jim,

Will this system be replacing e-mail notification as well, or just the paper service for those patrons who don't have or have elected not to use e-mail?

This sounds like it's a great system and will save you all a lot of time! You'll have to keep us posted on how it works as you go along.