A little over 10% might not seem like a substantial attrition rate but when you consider that the Library of Congress holds more than 130 million items then things get a little scary.
That's over 13 million items! For a little perspective the entire Seattle Public Library collection (including books, audio books, CDs, DVDs, books in large type, and magazines and newspapers) is 2 million items.
Part of the problem is that the public still uses paper call slips to request material and apparently many of the paper slips are as difficult to read as the Palm Beach paper ballots of the 2000 election.
"Because we still have a paper request slip, the patron does not go to the online public catalogue and press a button. They write down all the information and sometimes the patron doesn't correctly copy all of the information," leading to a errors in the search" says Deanna Marcum, the associate librarian for library services. Marcum also notes "the shelves are crowded, with books overflowing into carts and onto the floor of the stacks. The people who retrieve items might overlook the requested materials."
Another problem is the recent budget cuts to the library. "Since fiscal 2003, the library has requested $12 million for inventory control and received $6.3 million" and the Collections, Access, Loan and Management Division (CALM) staff has dwindled from 235 in 2000 to 162 today and like all the other government departments in the Bush Administration CALM "has hired contractors to complete the inventory and do the shelving in the hope of cutting the time it takes to get a book back in circulation."
The most frightening aspect of the survey by the Inspector General is the conclusion:
Our preliminary testing indicated that CALM is providing timely and accurate retrieval service, especially considering the volume of materials handled and the size of the Library’s General Collections. We also concluded that CALM has an adequate internal control system and has a competent management team that effectively monitors the division’s activities. Moreover, CALM has initiated actions that should improve its service. We plan to periodically perform testing in CALM in the future to
monitor its service.
There are 13 million items missing!
Article in the Washington Post Materials Missing at Library of Congress