Wednesday, December 21, 2016

To tape or not to tape

Guest Post written by Charles Clemence

Recently the WISCAT list contained an exchange about the use of tape and labels in ILL. It began as a post by Christine Barth suggesting that WISCAT and other pre-printed labels be used to route ILLs whenever possible. This led to a discussion of tape and labels and how best to use them. Some of that discussion was prompted by the new national guidelines for ILL, which prohibit the use of any kind of tape on items belonging to other libraries.

Below is an edited version of my contribution to the discussion, which Christine requested I repost here. Most people seemed to appreciate my comments, although that’s probably because I didn’t hear from the ones who didn’t. (Thanks to those people).

In March I'll be turning 65, so I like to think that nothing much surprises me anymore. Including
Rolls of colored tape
Image courtesy of Pixabay
election results and the Packers' curious inability to win consistently with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. But I am constantly surprised at how much passion the issue of tape arouses in the ILL community. To use or not use, removable or non-removable, everyone seems to have an opinion. Myself included. Over 25 years ago I wrote a (supposedly) humorous article for the Winding Rivers Library System newsletter, suggesting (jokingly) that perhaps librarians were getting kickbacks from the Scotch tape people, judging by the amount of tape I saw used on ILL items. I thought that was funny, although I'm not sure anyone else did.

As to tape, a couple of comments:

1. The prohibition on tape in the new ILL guidelines refers to items owned by other libraries. If you want to send your own items out covered in tape - go for it. But when returning items you borrowed, my experience is that it's best to follow the guidelines, however arbitrary they seem. ILL is based on having cooperative lenders. In fact, it couldn't exist without them. If some don't like tape, then the prudent course is to not use it for any.

2. The ILL guidelines are just that - guidelines. If you don't follow them the library police aren't going to show up at your door. At least I don't think they will. However, if you don't follow the guidelines a lender would be free to refuse your loan requests for that reason. For myself, I've always tried to avoid using tape. If necessary, I tape the label to a rubber band and put that combination around the item. Some don't like this solution, but if you use removable tape on the rubber band it isn't too obnoxious to dismantle.

As to labels, most of the problems described in the earlier comments sound like human error or a combination of software issues and human error. If anyone has come up with a way to keep people from making mistakes they're doing a good job of keeping it a secret. And the perfect software package continues to elude us as well.

Moreover, going back to exclusive use of pink routing labels would only make these problems worse. I remember when we had that system and there were a lot more errors than there are now. Also, unless you print the information on the pink labels - something that isn't always possible - the problem of reading the labels arises. No one wants to read my handwriting, I know that.

That's my 2 cents. Or maybe more like a nickel.

Written by:  
Charles Clemence, Winding Rivers Library System