Posted by Lori Ayre on October 7, 2007

I was reading about some of the great things people are doing with LibraryThing for Libraries recently (check out this Christian Science Monitor article about Library Thing - note the closing line, "What other amusements have librarians been keeping to themselves?") and I had this wild idea....why not allow individual patrons to circulate items from their collections too?

The idea of extending circulation capabilities to patron holdings evolves from my belief that the search tool we present to our users must always *find* the thing they are looking for. Whether the item is available at the local library is part of a transparent Step Two. The most important first step is to locate a reference and metadata for the item sought.

Once the metadata is available, then the user will be able to decide if they need the physical item because they will be able to see the book cover, read the table of contents, "look inside the book," read reviews from their peer group, and utilize all that other cataloging information we provide.

IF, the user decides she wants the item, then we must do everything in our power to get it for her. This is part of that transparent Step Two. There's lots of ways to get the thing these days because we can not only borrow it from another library or buy it from our book distributor or Amazon or the local bookstroe. We can also digitize it, copy it, or create a book-on-demand. We can download it as an Ebook, or find it in an open access repository or link to it in an online book collection. So to this increasingly long list of ways we can fulfill the patron's request, I am, as of today, adding the idea that we borrow it from another patron.

I have lots of books on my shelf that may be of interest to just the right person but which may not make sense for my local library to make room for. For example, I did a paper on data mining so I have all these great academic and scientific books on data mining that probably wouldn't do much business in my small town library. But, in the spirit of the long tail, there are people out there who would are likely to want these books at some point and I'd be more than happy to lend them. I'm not quite prepared to sell them via Amazon or donate them to someone who will reject them (my library) but I'd love to lend them to other interested users.

Imagine, if our local collections were expanded to include items held by our patrons that they were willing to lend? Double the collection size without adding any more space? Sounds good to me. Of course, we'd have to come up with some rules and there would be some risk involved but so what! I think it would be worth trying.

Anyone out there interested in expanding their library collection to include circulatable items owned by their patrons/customers? Library users, are you interested in lending items from your personal collection?