Next Available v. Item Level Holds

For the NExpress Users Group meeting, I will be talking about the very unscientific results of an ‘unrestricted holds flow test’ – meaning, I picked 5 titles and recorded their holds for 6 weeks.  Each Monday morning, I’d take a snapshot of the status table and Holds priority list for Fantasy in Death, Big Girl, Worst Case, Going Rogue and I, Alex Cross.

During this review, we discovered:

  • The simultaneous holds bug (4373), which we sent to Support in December 2009 but were able to replicate and record (using Jing!) for a bug report.  This is a rather significant find and will require some major changes in how Koha functions.
  • We also see problems with how Koha picks an item to fill a hold when a Library has one copy of the title cataloged with a restricted item type and another copy with an unrestricted item type.  Sometimes the restricted item shows up on the Pick List with instructions to ship it to another library.  That’s not suppose to happen.
  • We also learned more about how the priority list behaves – namely, that when an item has been ‘picked’ and ‘assigned’ to fill a hold, the Priority List goes funny (bug 3344).  We brought this to Galen’s attention and there is a new interim status in 3.2 for items in transit, but not yet waiting (I think – I can’t find my screen shot for this).
  • We also worked with the Cataloging committee to find a better way to catalog On Order items – it seems that in some cases, restricted hold rules weren’t being followed on items that were first cataloged with the On Order item type and then later changed to Local Hold or Walk-in.  Actually, Walk-in behaves ok, but Local Hold is still kind of problematic.
  • Expired holds need to be managed a bit better – many times there were books tied up on a holds shelf for 14 days, rather than being moved on to the next waiting patron.
  • Item level holds (not associated with restricted item types) are BAD, BAD, BAD and lead to unnecessary wait times for patrons.

As to “The Test” – On average, a patron’s hold request advances one place in the priority list each day, or 7 places in a week.

  • Patron A went from 33rd to 19th to 10th to checked out in 4 weeks on a ‘Next Available’ title-level hold while
  • Patron B went from 21st to 12th to 7th to waiting in 4 weeks on an “Only item” item-level hold.
  • Patron C went from 27th to 19th to 12th to waiting in 4 weeks on a title-level hold
  • For Worst Case, which had the most available copies, the average went up to 14 places in 7 days.

As a ‘control’ – I used House Rules and in 6 weeks, Patron A went from 52nd t o 5th place – if my math is right, that’s 47 places in 6 weeks or an advancement of about 7.8 places per week.  That’s on a title-level hold.  For the Patron B who had an item-level hold, they went from 9th to 3rd in 9 weeks!

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