Implementing the “Nearly Limitless Pilot” and Adding the “Express TV” Collection

There are a couple of big projects that I did during my last job that I still hadn’t posted about, so I apologize to those who have been waiting to hear.

Two of the big projects I lead was to add a new Express TV DVD collection, and almost at the same time (launched 2 weeks apart), revamp our circulation rules for loan periods, loan limits, hold limits, and renewals.

Context and Rationale

Renovations along with various comments and changes in library practices prompted us to consider adding the new DVD collection plus the related circulation rules, and also look at revising our existing circulation policies.

Honestly, the previous loan periods and limits were not simple, and even staff sometimes had difficulty remembering them all (see the original list below), so we wanted to simply our limits and due to renovations coming up, we also wanted to increase limits where we could.

Adding an “Express TV” DVD Collection

The addition of a new DVD collection was really a separate project, but had a lot of impact to circulation rules (which is why I’ve lumped the two together in one post). We wanted to add a short loan, no renewal collection (known variously as Express, Quick Watch, Fast View, or something similar depending on the library). We had an existing collection for movies (“Express View”), but we specifically wanted to add something similar for TV series (“Express TV”).

As an aside, this was specifically for DVDs in the adult collection, so children’s DVDs were not part of the project.

At the time, one of the complications was the fact that we split TV shows into small sets. All DVDs had the same loan period at 1 week, so it made sense that if you could only have a DVD for 1 week, you were likely to only get through a small portion of a season of a show.

Anyone who has used a system like this will realize there are a couple of issues that we often got complaints about:

  • It was difficult to get the sets in order, especially new ones with lots of holds.
  • Putting holds on all sets of a single TV season typically required 2-4 holds, which meant TV watchers were consistently reaching their hold limit.
  • If someone reached their hold limit, they could sometimes only place a hold on one or two sets of a season, and not all the season’s sets.

We knew that if we wanted to launch the new Express TV collection, the most logical thing was to change how we grouped TV DVDs, and to do it by the season or series.

Implementing a New DVD Collection

New System Types and Codes

Those who work with library systems can probably guess that since all DVDs were loaned for 1 week, the system only had one item type to define the circulation rules with and one collection code for all English movie, TV, and non-fiction DVDs (“dvd”), except for “Express View” movies (which had its own “vx” code).

So, the first thing was to create new item types and collection codes for the different types of DVDs, resulting in the following:

DVD Collection Collection Code itype Existing/New?
DVD Movie DVD dvd Existing
DVD Movie/NF Express VX vx Existing
DVD TV DVD-TV dvdtv New
DVD TV Express VX-TV vxtv New
DVD Non-Fiction DVD-NF dvdnf New

I then had separate the existing collection by changing the types/codes for TV and Non-Fiction DVDs (fun, fun, fun…). The only way to easily do this was to do a search within the system and bulk edit the type/code. Thankfully, the call numbers are structured differently, so it didn’t take as long as I feared it might. A few may have slipped through the cracks, but I’m sure we got them all eventually.

Going from Split to Single Season

There were two main things that needed to change: processing/cataloguing, and loan period.

The changes in Technical Services around processing and cataloguing would mean simplifying the processes, but it still meant change. There are also a lot of different stickers to help indicate the type of DVD, so some things were changed to make it more consistent. Then, of course, the documentation needed to be updated. We also needed to decide what would happen if new copies came in when existing copies were split.

Instead of a single loan period for regular DVDs, and one for “Express View”, different types of DVDs began to have different loan periods:

  • Express View (movie/non-fiction): 3 days
  • Express TV: 1 week
  • Movie: 1 week
  • TV: 3 weeks
  • Non-Fiction: 3 weeks

While it meant more loan periods, we agreed that you would need more than a week to reasonably get through a season’s worth of DVDs, and we decided on changing Non-Fiction at the same time to increase their use (which also warranted a longer period of time since many of them are courses).

Transition Plan

The biggest question with the changes was what to do with the existing TV collection.

After much deliberation, we decided to leave it as is. While it meant that all TV DVDs would be allowed out for 3 weeks (even with just one or two discs), it was completely impractical to try to retrofit the existing collection. Older DVDs tend to need replacing anyway, or they are eventually removed from the collection. Newer DVDs tend to be checked out and have holds on them, so trying to recall all the sets of a season at the same time was practically impossible.

Thankfully, our timing was such that the super popular new releases around that time (Game of Thrones, House of Cards, The Crown, etc.) weren’t out yet, so we were able to package them as single seasons.

Express TV collection

The “Nearly Limitless” Pilot

The conversation started with increasing holds because TV series needed too many holds, and about increasing the limits on seasonal items (namely Christmas). From there, the conversation grew and with the renovations coming up, we wanted people to be able to keep more material and for longer. So we wondered,

what would happen if we simply increased all the limits?

I cheekily called it the “nearly limitless” pilot (on the single internal document, which only the managers saw). Honestly, it was to reflect both that I believe they’re the highest limits any public library has in BC (maybe even Canada?), and the fact that I was super proud of the library going forward with the project (staff and the board supported it).

We didn’t actually end up increasing everything, but we did significantly increase a lot of them, especially renewals, and holds. For loan limits, we simplified them as much as we could by removing the seasonal and graphic novel limits, increasing games, and changing the other limits to be by format regardless of the collection. So instead of 25 CDs and Audiobooks in Adult and 5 each of CDs and Audiobooks in Children’s, it’s 25 CDs and 25 Audiobooks regardless of where in the library you got it.

For a more technical look at how I implemented the circulation rules, check out my Horizon circulation rules primer.

A Comparison

Original Rules (Pre-Nov 2017) New Rules (Nov 2017)
Renewals 2 5
Holds 30 75
Loan Period Most circulating books and magazines:3 weeks

Bestseller Express books: 1 week

DVDs: 1 week

Video Games: 1 week

Express View DVDs: 3 days

CD books, Music CDs: 3 weeks

Story Boxes: 3 weeks

Book Club Sets: 6 weeks

Most items may be borrowed for 3 weeks, except:

Bestseller Express books: 1 week

Movie DVDs: 1 week

TV DVDs: 3 weeks

Non-Fiction DVDs: 3 weeks

Express View DVDs: 3 days

Express TV DVDs: 1 week

Children’s DVDs: 1 week

Video Games: 1 week

Book Club Sets: 6 weeks

Loan Limits Item Limits for Adult Material

Books – Bestseller Express: 5

Books: no limit

Paperbacks: no limit

Graphic Novels: 25

Magazines: 25

CDs & CD books: 25

DVDs: 25

Express View DVDs: 2

Kobo eReaders: 1

* some seasonal items have special limits

Item Limits for Children’s Material

Books: 25

Books – New: 5

Books – seasonal: 4

CD Books: 5

CDs – regular & seasonal: 5

DVDs: 10

Graphic novels: 5

Magazines: 6

Magazines – teen: 2

Paperbacks: 25 (3 per series)

Storybox: 1

Video Games: 2

maximum of 75 items at one time with the limits listed below:

Bestseller Express Books: 5

CDs: 25

CD Books: 25

DVDs (including Express): 25

Express View DVDs: 2

Express TV DVDs: 2

Video Games: 5

Magazines: 25

Kobo eReaders: 1

Storybox: 1

All About Communication

As with all changes, the key was the communication. I spent a ton of time talking to staff to get a feel for their willingness and thoughts, presenting the plans to the managers, and the communication pieces that would go out to staff, and to the public.

A lot of the staff knew about the changes during the planning phase, but as with other libraries, there are a number of part time and on-call staff, so we wanted to make sure everyone had advanced notice and knew what was coming and when. Aside from the usual announcement, staff got a more detailed explanation of the what, why, and how along with a list of anticipated FAQs with answers that would hopefully answer their questions, but also language that they could use to answer any of the public’s questions (super important!).

The public announcements were what you would expect. Not super short, but long enough to list the changes with a small amount of rationale, and in the case of the TV collection, a brief warning to make sure they are putting the correct item on hold, especially during the transitional phase. To help promote the new collection, we also included a link to the catalogue that listed all and only the Express TV collection.


It was amazing to get these two projects completed, and especially great to see the positive feedback we got from staff and the public. We had one or two members who wondered if we were crazy for increasing the limits so high, but we emphasized the new limits is a pilot project.

I, for one, really hope the library keeps the new limits. Most people will never reach the highest limits, but it also means, most will never feel limited by the library.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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