A lot of people have private book collections - or CD collections, or DVD collections - that specialize in a particular area, and whose thouroughness and spread in that area the public library could not match - nor would they want to try. However, many people would still enjoy having access to these
books, to fill the gaps in the public collection.
Most public library systems have a "hold" system, whereby books can be sent from library to library within a system, so patrons don't have to drive all over the county looking for books.
Why not allow people to put "holds" on books from private collections, *through the public library system*? The idea would work roughly thus:
1. Library patron who owns books the library doesn't, and wishes to add their books to the collection, catalogs the books and submits the list. The list is not added to the regular library catalog, but rather to the "expanded catalog". It isn't necessary to barcode the books (see below).
2. User who wants to borrow a book that's not in the regular catalog searches for it in the "expanded catalog". (This is kept seperate to reduce processing difficulties - users should only be looking here for books they can't find through the normal channels.)
3. User finds book in the expanded catalog, and puts a "hold" on it using their existing public library account.
4. Owner of the book that has jsut been put on hold is notified via telephone or e-mail.
5. Owner of the book brings the book to the nearest library next time they go, and gives it to the librariran with instructions that it's for the extended hold system.
6. Librarian puts the book in a container or slipcover that *is* barcoded, and tells the catalog system that Book X is in Cover Y and ready to go on hold.
7. The book is sent to the appropriate library through the regular hold system. The user who wanted it checks it out, with their exisitng account and under the same rules as a regular book.
8. When the user is done, the book is sent back to the same library that picked it up, and shelved.
9. The owner of the book comes in and picks it up, whereupon the librarian removes the slipcover and tells the catalog system that Cover Y is now free again and Book X has been returned to its owner.
It might be a bit more labourious than the normal system, but it has tremendous possibilities for expansion of the system. And unlike other "private library" proposals that have been made, this idea would allows people to retain their book collections at home, and would be easy to set up, since it works on top of the system already in place. All that's necessary would be the addition of a secondary catalog, a little reprogramming of the hold system, and the addition to the library catalog of some clear plastic covers.