Making Access For All
In a previous post, I wrote about the fact that for a lending library the number one statistic is, and always will be the number of exchanges. The number of times that people arrive at the library, get an item they need, use it and return it is the best way to know if the mission of providing access is being met successfully.
Since the time of that first post, we've seen a lot more data and we've had many more conversations with members. All of this has lead us to plan an update that we hope will be popular with all of the members of the Toronto Tool Library - we are calling it "quick loans".
What are Quick Loans?
Quick loans will be a way to ensure that all members, no matter what membership tier they enjoy, can get the tools they need either right away, or within a day or two.
Quick loan items will have a set loan duration of three days for ALL membership tiers - basic, twice-fun, or high-five. For all other tools, the usual loan duration will apply. In other words, there will still be table saws and mitre saws available for two weeks for high-five members that really need them. But if you actually only need to use these popular tools for a day or two, the quick-loan items will be available. And the odds of getting those items when you need them become much higher than when all the items are out for weeks at a time.
There is nothing worse than needing a tool for your project, only to find out that they are all out and not returning for weeks. Quick loan items can be borrowed roughly four times during the duration of a single two-week borrow - enabling many more members to get what they need, when they need it.
In thinking about this solution, we talked extensively with regular members at the library, and we conducted some tests to see how the quick-loan idea would be received. The overwhelming response has been that members would happily give up some loan duration to get the tools they need, when they need it. After all, does anyone really need a power-washer for 14 days?
In thinking about solving the availability problem, we tested one of our most popular tools - the Ryobi Cordless Airstrike nail-gun. This was a good tool to test with because it is highly popular for projects like doing baseboards. It is a finishing nailer, for normal sized projects rather than a framing nailer for construction. People love it because it doesn't require a noisy compressor. Suffice it to say, it is popular.
For two months, when we would run out of Airstrike nailers we would offer up our in-house Airstrike, on the condition that it needed to come back quickly. Not once did a member turn down the offer. The availability was clearly more important than the duration.
Our plan is to roll out quick-loan items for all the most popular tool categories. These will be clearly marked on the MyTurn database, and like all the tools will be available for reservation.
Q. Does this mean there will be fewer items for long-term loans?
A. No. Quick-loan items will be new items added to the inventory.
Q. Can I take a quick-loan tool out and renew it for a longer duration?
A. No, the goal is that someone else be able to get quick-loan tools rather than waiting a long time. However longer-duration borrows remain available (7 days for "Twice Fun" and 14 days for "High Five")
Q. What kind of tools will have quick-loan items?
A. Table saws, mitre saws, SDS Hammer Drills, Cordless Nailers, Power Washers - all the high-demand items. We are also looking into expanding into tools like steam-cleaners and others that are generally needed only for short periods of time.
All in all, quick-loan items look like they will provide an outstanding solution to enabling more access to more members, with less waiting. And it will even let us open up new categories of tools, all while keeping membership rates the same and without straining our space requirements.
Look for quick-loan items soon!