Planning the configuration of the item groupings

Perhaps the biggest task is connection with startup of IMMS is to configure item groupings for all the branches. This work involves defining rules for which items go where, so all of the items that potentially can be shelved at a branch – both floating items and items with a fixed relationship to the branch – match a single unambiguous item grouping at the branch.

The branch’s (potential) items must therefore be grouped and these groupings must be assigned to the branch’s locations.

The first step in this process is planning. A plan should be put together addressing how the item groupings should be defined so that you avoid having to tweak them too much after they have been entered into IMMS. Moreover, having a plan can ensure systematic consistency across branches when it comes to the configuration.


The size of an item grouping

The item groupings must have a name that identifies the content. It can be chosen freely, but it is recommended to make a uniform naming, which as far as possible is self-explanatory in daily use. The names of the item groupings are used to describe the location of the items in general in IMMS – including during picking, where the name is used to describe where the item is to be found.


The size of an item grouping

A logical starting point for the item groupings is the physical placement of items on the shelves before rolling out IMMS. There will already be a division (and possibly a logical naming) of shelves and bays, typically in the form of signs and dividers. However, since each item grouping in IMMS has a fixed physical size (not necessarily the same for all of the item groupings), you cannot base this on dividers, if these are routinely moved around as needed.

One possible rule of thumb when it comes to the ideal size of an item grouping is to base it on existing bays in the ranges within the stacks. Smaller item groupings can in some cases make sense, whereas larger ones are not recommended. Since as a general rule, items are sorted alphabetically within an item grouping, large item groupings may result in unnecessary items movements if, for example, items at the beginning of an item grouping need to be shelved and you then need to move items at the end of the shelf down to the next shelf in order to create enough space for them. This can potentially cause a cascading effect all the way down to the end of the item grouping. As a general rule, IMMS ensures that an item grouping is not assigned more items than it has room for, but the alphabetical distribution within an item grouping will be completely random.

When formalizing the existing usage and content of shelves and bays, you can choose between two different strategies: One is to record the items that are currently on the shelves and make this the basis of your strategy. This minimizes the need to move items during IMMS implementation, but you risk having to deal with less appealing ranges of items in IMMS, for example, the range (Dewey example) from classification “340” (alphabetization “*”) to “340.06 S?” (alphabetization “*”). The other strategy would be defining more logical ranges, which you then must implement by moving the items around a bit - or even removing some items from the branch. If you choose the first strategy, you can of course always adjust the boundaries of the item groupings at a later point in time if you think it makes your daily operations easier.

A midsize branch typically has 100-250 item groupings, while large a branch or main library may have over 1,000 item groupings.


Use of levels

As described in the description of item groupings, the items that an item grouping may contain are defined using criteria for the item properties from the LMS.

Since the use of elements from the item properties can vary significantly from one library to another, the description and scheme below should be adapted to local conditions.

For individual item groupings, you will typically not use limitations on all 7 of the aforementioned elements. Instead, you fill out only those criteria that are required in order to define which items belong to the item grouping.

When only a part of the item properties is specified, there will naturally be some overlap in the definitions. For example, one item grouping could define the items as general fiction literature while another item grouping could define the item type “DVD” without further limitations. Here you must think of one of the definitions as an “exception” to the other item grouping’s definition. For this, levels, indicating which definition overrules the other definition, are used.

The levels can be used in the item definitions of the item groupings. Levels with higher numbers overrule levels with lower numbers - they are prioritized higher.

Before starting on the configuration of the branches, a general plan defining how these levels are to be used should be created. It is recommended to make a plan that covers all branches so that employees in different branches can consult one another more easily and guidelines can be communicated globally.

The basic principle for applying levels is that the lowest levels are used for the most general item ranges - typically using classification and possibly alphabetization. It is common that a considerable share of the items ends up here. On top of this, exceptions are defined based on e.g., locations, sub-locations, and item types - or combinations of these. You are of course always free to apply limitations to the classification and alphabetization as well, but it is not mandatory.

So normally, the general rules for the placement of items are defined on the lower levels, while special rules are defined on a higher level. It’s all about rules and exceptions.

A frequently used principle is to allocate the top level to an “exclusionary” item grouping. This item grouping defines the items that the branch does not want to receive. The item grouping is not linked to any locations and therefore has a capacity of 0. The items that match the exclusionary item grouping are therefore effectively kept out the branch. You obviously need to ensure that there are no items with a fixed relationship to the branch matching the exclusionary item grouping.

An example

An example of a specific level plan might look like this:

Level 9: Excluded items
Level 8: Item type
Level 7: Location + sub-location + classification
Level 6: Location + sub-location
Level 5: Location
Level 4: Item collection
Level 3: Sub-location + classification
Level 2: Sub-location
Level 1: Classification
Level 0: Bottom group without filtration - normally not used

Generally, the department must be specified at all levels - alphabetization may be included at all levels.

During planning and defining the item groupings, you should examine the use of the various fields of the item properties from the LMS. Based on this effort, summarized rules can be drafted to govern which item properties should be filtered in specific item groupings (e.g. how are crime novels, music CDs, etc. defined and filtered in the item groupings). In this process there may be a need for clean-up and alignment of rarely used LMS master data. If so, the clean-up must be carried out in the LMS. When there are no more items left using the phased-out values, these values can be hidden (no longer active in the LMS master data) in IMMS so that they no longer appear as configuration options.