OCLS Home Delivery by Jim Myers
BBM – Books By Mail
The OCLS books-by-mail program (BBM) was initiated in 1974. At the time, the Library’s presence in Orange County consisted of the Orlando Public Library, nine branches, and an aging bookmobile. The county population was about 350,000 and development was stretching in all directions. Library Director Glenn Miller wanted to phase out the bookmobile while still providing accessible library service to residents across the county. BBM was the answer. Books-by-mail service was fairly common among public libraries at the time, but these programs were typically available only to customers who were homebound. OCLS books-by-mail made no such distinction. All cardholders could call to request titles, and the Library would mail books to patrons’ homes at no cost. The Library would pay postage, treating the cost of BBM operations like the overhead cost for a physical branch.
MAYL – Mailbox Access to your Library
In 1975, BBM’s first full year of operation, 9,000 books were mailed to patrons. Growth was slow but steady into the 1980s, as the Orlando Public Library was expanded and the network of branches began to reach more distant communities.
In the late 1980s, the BBM program was given the name MAYL, which stood for Mailbox Access to Your Library. By 1990, MAYL circulation was averaging 18,000 books a month. Audio visual items became eligible for home delivery and accounted for 10% of all requests by 1992.
PEP – Priority Express Parcel
The Library faced a dilemma in 1994, when the United States Postal Service announced a 70% increase in library book rate postage. In June of that year, the Orlando Sentinel ran a story about the impending postal increase, reporting on the library’s search for home delivery alternatives. After reading the article, Rick Bennett and Dennis Clay approached OCLS with a proposal. Bennett and Clay, friends with backgrounds as managers in delivery organizations, were confident they could provide the Library with quick delivery, at a competitive cost, with less-intensive package preparation for Library staff. In early 1995, the Library began a trial run with Bennett and Clay’s new company, Priority Express Parcel (PEP).
It was soon apparent that PEP provided the Library with a superior alternative to the post office in terms of both cost and service. By 2000, PEP was delivering 90% of requested material. Along the way, the Library changed the first word in MAYL so that acronym stood for Materials Access to Your Library, as mailboxes were decreasingly involved in Library deliveries.
The OCLS website was introduced in 1998, allowing patrons to request items for home delivery online. That year, just over 2,500 requests were made by patrons via the web. In just two years, the Library was receiving more than 15,000 online requests each month. The 2000s were a decade of extraordinary growth for MAYL. Glenn Miller’s innovative approach to providing library service in the 1970s proved to be perfectly suited for the emergence of internet. By 2008, the Library was receiving more than 65,000 online home delivery requests monthly. MAYL items being delivered represented nearly 10% of all checked out items throughout OCLS. As MAYL grew, so did the Library’s relationship with PEP. The company took over OCLS inter-branch delivery in the late 1990s, and their delivery area expanded to ultimately handle 98% of all MAYL deliveries. By 2010, PEP was managing packaging duties of requested items, further streamlining the MAYL process for Library staff.
Downloadables and COVID 19
In the years that followed, the increasing popularity of downloadable options tempered physical circulation to some degree. Still, MAYL continued to rank at or near the top in number of items checked out among the physical OCLS locations. The service again proved to be perfectly suited for another societal shift in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. That spring and summer, home delivery increased 50% over the previous year. In some cases, delivery included needed supplies for customers taking part in online classes. During those challenging times, MAYL connected residents to the Library like never before.
It’s noteworthy that as OCLS celebrates 100 years, its innovative home delivery service has existed for almost half of that century. Whether known as BBM, MAYL or simply home delivery, it has grown in reach and efficiency through the decades while remaining a cost-effective way to provide all residents to access to library materials. Perhaps most significantly, through surveys and comments, customers continue to overwhelmingly rank home delivery as one of the best things about OCLS.
View additional information, below, under Images and Documents.
1973-1974 Annual Report introduces the Books by Mail program.
October 1, 1975 - Seminole County Service begins including Books by Mail.
During the expansion brochure promoting the home delivery service.
1990 Orlando Public Library postcards. One image features staff in the Books by Mail department.
February 1991 Friends of the Library Newsletter featuring advertisement promoting Books by Mail.
April 1997 Books and Beyond, promoting MAYL - Mail Access to Your Library.
Library On Line, Orlando Sentinel, October 9, 1997. From the personal collection of Mary Bennett.
Chapter from retired Library Director Glenn Miller's 1996 book on the Books By Mail program at OCLS.