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A survey for IHLS-SHARE members and an AMHS Update

Illinois Heartland Library System

Published : Mar. 12, 2024
Automated Material Handling System project updates.

Since a large majority of IHLS members use a single, connected integrated library system (Polaris, through the SHARE consortium), it makes sense for IHLS to couple the power of SHARE with the power of an automated material handling system. Using such a system to sort SHARE consortium members' materials could create significant long-term savings to the IHLS budget while improving efficiency overall. 

More specifically, IHLS is looking into acquiring an Automated Material Handling System as a potential solution to some delivery, staffing, and funding problems we've encountered. These include:

High turnover rate among sorters • High sorting backlogs after long weekends • Sorting errors resulting in extended delivery times • High rates of worker injury and Workers' Compensation claims • Large increase in volume going through Delivery

The IHLS staff, with the help of a group of IHLS member-volunteers which we refer to as the AMH Working Group, are still estimating costs to make sure that the costs and benefits of purchasing an Automated Material Handling System make sense for IHLS; we're also determining the full costs and benefits of these machines for our members. Our biggest concern is that utilizing an automation system would require portions of SHARE-members' collections (the books and audiovisual items that circulate through IHLS Delivery) to have barcodes somewhere on the outside of those items. Because it wouldn't be fair to place that burden on member libraries (especially when so many of you have only one or two staff members and very small budgets), IHLS is creating a plan for our staff to cover any necessary barcode duplication for you (labor and materials) so you don't have to. If you currently have barcodes on the outside of the items or you have RFID on your items, no barcode duplication will be necessary.

Of course, none of this will happen unless the IHLS staff and board's remaining research leads to the conclusion that the purchase is worth it and IHLS decides to move forward with an installation.

Because it wouldn't be fair to place that burden on member libraries (especially when so many of you have only one or two staff members and very small budgets), IHLS is creating a plan for our staff to do any necessary barcode duplication for you (labor and materials), so you don't have to.


What do IHLS-member libraries need to do right now?


If you are not part of the SHARE consortium:

  • Nothing. Your materials would still be hand-sorted rather than machine-sorted. However, expect to see a long-term improvement in turnaround speed.

If you are a SHARE consortium member: 

  1. Stay informed and stay tuned. Watch the recording of the March 6, 2024, IHLS Members Matter Special Meeting: Delivery Issues and Solutions (including a discussion of the potential Automated Materials Handling System) 
  2. Make sure your library's director or administrator completes the IHLS Barcode Duplication & AMH Preferences Report questionnaire. This questionnaire was sent to library directors and administrators (only) on Friday, March 8, 2024, and is open through Sunday, March 17, 2024. Monday, March 18, 2024.

    Please note: To ensure each library responds only once, your library's survey was sent only to the "Library Director / Administrator," as designated by your library in L2 (Illinois' Library Directory & Learning Calendar). If your library's director or designated administrator did not receive a questionnaire invitation email, please contact Colleen Dettenmeier, Delivery and Facilities Director, at We will get your library an invitation within the next business day.

3/13/2024 UPDATE: IHLS has received several reports of libraries not receiving the IHLS Barcode Duplication & AMH Preferences Report questionnaire invitation due to a recent change in administration, an empty "Library Director / Administrator" field, or spam filters. Therefore, IHLS will be:

(1) Sending the invitation to all SHARE members' Annual Certification contacts (also as designated by libraries in L2). If you are your library's Annual Certification contact and you did not already receive an invitation, please look for your invitation the evening of March 13 or the morning of March 14, 2024.

(2) Extending the survey deadline through the end of Monday, March 18, 2024.