We’re in the midst of a huge inventory project in my library right now, and one thing I didn’t anticipate about this project is how much paper it generates. We run inventory reports, and have to take these reports into the stacks to verify what’s missing, reshelve what’s missplaced, find what shouldn’t be there, and relabel books where their call numbers are old and near illegible. I have stacks and stacks of these reports on my desk, and we’re only up to the Ds. I keep thinking and thinking of how we can do this without generating so much paper, and all of the solutions I brainstorm aren’t really solutions because they’re impractical. No one wants to walk through the stacks holding a laptop, and we don’t have enough of them, anyway.
What would work are tablets. I’ve been reading a bit here and there about how useful iPads and other tablet computers could be for roving reference and other public service-oriented activities, but this inventory project is the first time I’ve thought, “Man, I wish all our librarians had iPads.” I could easily generate a spreadsheet template for all of these reports, and send them out to staff who could take their iPads into the stacks, check off the various statuses and verification codes we’re using, and email the spreadsheets back to me. Less waste, less reliance on me being in the office to distribute and collect paper printouts, and it would be much easier to get everyone to actually use the same codes and notes, so I would have less deciphering to do.
I think it would probably be a bit of a learning curve to make this work seamlessly. Not only would staff be working with a new tool, there would likely be a few week period where the shelf checking didn’t go as smoothly because things would be missed (reading from a screen is still very different from reading from paper). But it sure would be sweet to clear all these stacks of paper off my desk. And our printer would probably appreciate the break.
Alas, it’s pretty unlikely that all of our librarians will be getting iPads before this project is over, so I guess I’ll just have to live with my paper, and keep dreaming.