Making ILL a Game 2

Chris Harris at SLJ:

We are exploring turning ILL into a game. The basic mechanic will give libraries points for sending and receiving interlibrary loans, with bonus points for prompt delivery and ontime returns. A leaderboard (competition drives a LOT more than you might want to admit!) might prompt librarians to become more involved in resource sharing.

2 thoughts on “Making ILL a Game

  • Graeme Williams

    The post in School Library Journal mentions something that I think could be extremely important for libraries looking at resource limits: having libraries within a network specialize their collections. I think it would be great if one of the libraries in our local network developed a strong collection in military science. But we could also benefit if one library specialized in science fiction, another in mysteries and a third in romances. It wouldn’t mean every other library abandoning their collections completely — just a little more focus. In a network of twenty libraries, five fewer science fiction books in nineteen libraries pays for 95 more in one.

    The SLJ post leaves out an interesting detail: one of the constraints in an ILL program is how many books will fit in the ILL van. Libraries are linked not by geographic distance but by the order in which the van visits. You want to borrow books from upstream libraries, and loan them to downstream libraries. Unfortunately, to return books, the van should go around the circle the other way. This looks like just the sort of algorithm you want to turn into a game so teenagers will work on it on their cell phones.

    Interlibrary loan is a game for the patrons as well. Here are the rules:

    * You can’t request a book until it enters the catalog
    * You can request a book, but you can’t say how important it is to you (more on this below)
    * Once you’ve requested a book, your request enters “limbo”.
    * If you look in the catalog for a book you’ve requested, you can tell how many requests there are, but not where you are in the queue
    * Some indeterminate time later, your request arrives at your library
    * You now have four days to pick up the book from the library — too bad if you’re out of town

    There are several different ways you might want a book. You might just want an email when it becomes available at your local library. You might want it via network ILL or super statewide ILL. If it was urgent, you might want it held at a remote library so you could drive over and pick it up. If you were feeling generous, you might want to offer to buy it for the local library. None of which, to my knowledge, is taken into account in the “ILL Game”.

  • Christopher Harris

    Great points, Graeme. We are also building a new ILL application to go along with the ILL game we are developing. The ILL system will be fully aware of where each library sits within the ILL van’s path so it can select the best library from which to request the resource. The algorithm will also do some load balancing that will try to keep libraries from being overwhelmed. Finally, as we collect user feedback and ratings, some libraries there may be a bonus attached to certain loaners based on past performance and if their load allows it.

    Being a library system funded by New York state, we also have the great advantage of being able to support cooperative collection development. We can offer grants to member libraries to support their development of collections that go deeper than a typical school library.

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