A number of libraries which run "housebound" services met in Strathalbyn today to discuss how they operate their services. Of particular interest to the group is the functionality of the "Outreach" module in Symphony.
The Outreach module is specifically designed to streamline and mainstream services to housebound customers. It works in the following manner:
1. As happens now with manual or semi-manual systems, each customer has an interest profile which outlines what they like to read - genres, subjects, favourite authors, material type (large print or ordinary print) etc. These interests are entered into their profile in the Outreach module.
2. When it comes time to select items for the customers (usually a day before delivery) the Outreach module reads each customer's profile and then identifies items which match the interests and have not been read by the customer previously.
3. It then gives the staff member the option to accept, reject or ignore the suggestion. If the item is rejected it will be noted in the borrower’s history and not suggested again. An acceptance for an item currently checked out will place the item on hold for the customer. These items will go onto the normal "pull list" for items on hold
4. A staff member who runs the pull list for all items will then collect the items that are identified for the customer from the shelves and deliver them to whoever is responsible for checking items out and arranging the delivery route for the next day.
This approach means that there is no need to have a separate "housebound" collection in the library, or for staff to keep manual records of what customers have previously borrowed or their profiles. It also means that the customers will have access to the library's full collection. And the streamlining of workflows is a significant time saver for staff.
PLS staff are currently setting up a range of Interest templates that will be able to be applied to customer’s profiles across the consortium with input and suggestions from staff working in Home Library services.
I am aware that Onkaparinga is currently implementing this module, so it will be interesting to hear from them at some stage about the benefits and challenges of changing work practises. Obviously one of the challenges during the change over to the new system will be that for some libraries the borrowers' histories will not be in the system. However, hopefully this will be rectified over time.
It will be interesting to hear from others as they explore how this module is used to support service delivery to this unique and valued customer group.
More information about the Outreach module can also be found on the SirsiDynix site here.