The library system I volunteer for is now floating. Basically, this means that the books no longer belong to one particular branch but, instead, could be at any branch. We already had inter-library loan, where you could take a book out of one library and return it to any branch. That book would get scanned in and then sent off to wherever it needed to go--either to a patron who happened to have put it on hold at the current library or back to the library from where it belonged. Now, a patron gets a book out of one library and returns it to any branch and it STAYS at that branch, unless there's a hold on it at another library.
There are lots of benefits to this system and lots of drawbacks as well. It allows the collection to be much more fluid, which means much more selection and turnaround for sections that benefit from being refreshed with new content. They started floating the large print books, the DVDs, and the audiobooks last year, for example. There aren't a whole lot of large print books in the system (only about two rows full per library) so floating allows for these books to travel all over and you might see completely different books from day to day. That's also sort of a problem--if you go to the library expecting a book because it's popular and so the library's got to have it, it stands less of a chance of actually being there. The library might have hundreds of copies, but those copies might all be at different libraries; there's nothing really to ensure that the copies are distributed evenly among all the branches. It also cuts down on delivery costs of us shipping the books back to the branch that owns it. However, a lot more people will probably be putting things on hold because the selection is so constantly changing and unpredictable, so we'll be shipping things to other branches more (time will tell if that evens out or is more cost-effective).
Something else it means is that I no longer get to work Saturday morning bookdrop. That was possibly my favorite job at the library. I loved taking the books in the giant pile and sorting books into piles by shape and type. After years, I had it down to a science. I knew how to pack the maximum amount of books into that wooden bin and just how to check them in so that they would most effectively fill the cart to go get reshelved. Most of the time, I would even sort the books and put them in order on the cart to save the pages and librarians time--not just putting them together by type but also alphabetizing or in order by the dewey decimal system. I considered it an art form and was sad whenever one of the librarians picked the books up and threw them into the bins for me, thinking it would save me time when all it did was mess up my beautiful method. I remember a time when my goal was to get all the books checked in before 10am, when the library opened to patrons. Lately, I've been so efficient that I've managed to get it done almost always before 8:30, giving me a whole half an hour head start on the picklist before the library filled with people. I am unnaturally proud of this.
I don't get to do the bookdrop any more, because the librarians need to be in charge of evaluating the condition of the books that get turned in. Before, it was the owning branch's responsibility to mend any problem books or call patrons for items like audiobooks missing a disc. But now that no branch owns the books, it's up to every branch to evaluate every book and fix anything.
Now, the good news is that floating is happening much more gradually than I thought it would. I'd heard that the whole collection would start floating on May 8. Both of my libraries started huge reorganizing projects to give maximum shelf space to the types of items that frequently get returned there, to make room where there wasn't room before. Luckily, however, the library system is going to float more slowly than I'd been told. Just like we started floating three types last year, we're going to go section by section in floating. So there isn't complete chaos yet (and, I hope, there never will be).
But I've still been kicked off Saturday morning book drop. And one of my reports at the other library is going to be gone--the one where I search the shelves for books that are owned by other branches but got accidentally put in this library by mistake. However, because the collection will be changing a lot, we expect people to be putting much more on hold. If you go to the library to do a research project on X subject and the branch doesn't have those books, you'd have to either drive to another branch and cross your fingers or have them sent over. I expect that the picklist (the list of books I pick off the shelves and place on the holds shelves for patrons) will at least double in size. There's even talk about doing it three times a day (right now, it's done twice: an am picklist and a pm picklist). So one door has closed and the window next to it has not only opened but has grown bigger than the door.
Only time will tell regarding the benefits and drawbacks of floating. It's in practice in other nearby library systems, but not in a system quite as big and spread out as ours is. And though I hate change and am still in mourning over the loss of my bookdrop duties, I do wish the libraries the best of luck implementing the new floating system.