Monday, July 14, 2008

Tracking books in village libraries

What we do is print book cards that are placed in each book to keep track of who borrowed the book. When the borrower takes the book, the book card stays in a box on the librarians desk, with borrower name and date due. It's one step above the system of just writing them in a notebook in order of checkout and then "crossing out" when book is returned. In the Burkina libraries we quickly got to 100-200 books checked out each month, so if we recorded then in a notebook pretty soon the librarian would spend a lot of time going back and forth across the pages of the notebook looking for a particular entry. With cards they can be placed in order for easier retrieval. If the librarian wants to know how many books are checked out, she just counts the cards. We the cards she can also quickly sort through and set aside the cards for books that are overdue, and then track down the perps. Someday we'll have hand-help solar powered computers to track the books... but not there yet.

My other dream... tamper-proof, dateable, solar-powered, failproof digital camera - the librarian has to take a picture at opening and another at closing, and then bonus and salary increase are based in part on proof of "being there" at the library. A formal evaluation in India suggested that would be quite an effective incentive to reduce tardiness and absenteeism (though of course not perfect). But the first response of the librarian coordinator here: the camera would cost more than the librarian salary!

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