May 27, 2022

Standards: NISO Publishes New Recommended Practice on Physical Delivery of Library Resources

From the National Information Standards Organization (NISO):

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) announces the publication of the new recommended practice: Physical Delivery of Library Resources (NISO RP-12-2012). The physical delivery of library materials is an integral component of the library resource sharing process. Despite the ever-increasing availability of electronic journals, e-books, and other digital resources, the movement of physical items remains a major concern and a major cost for many libraries. In one state, borrowing of returnable items increased by 107.4% in six years. A recent study showed that the average academic library spends more than $6,800/year for delivery services, with some libraries paying as high as $60,000. Given such volumes, libraries are struggling to deal with the labor and equipment costs, material wear and tear, and transit and sorting needs.

Physical Delivery of Library Resources focuses on three key areas: the physical move, automation, and the management of physical delivery. While the scope of the document is limited to the external delivery of items between separately administered libraries, many of the recommendations could apply to delivery between branches of a single library system, as well. Ranging from labeling and containers to automation and contracting with courier services, this Recommended Practice addresses both the lending and the borrowing library’s activities related to delivering and returning a physical item.

“The Working Group examined closely the workflow of resource sharing from patron to borrowing library to lending library and back,” explains Diana Sachs-Silveira, President Novare Library Services and co-chair of the Working Group. “We then identified practices at each step that would make services more efficient.”

“Our recommendations cover things as small as rubber banding and as large as automated material handling systems,” stated Valerie Horton, Executive Director, Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC) and co-chair of the Physical Delivery of Library Resources Working Group. “I think there is something for every sized delivery service in these recommendation and every delivery manager who reads these recommendations can find many ways of improving their services.”

“With so much focus on electronic information, it’s easy to forget how much libraries and their patrons depend on sharing of physical materials,” said Todd Carpenter, NISO Managing Director. “The Physical Delivery Recommended Practice identifies the best of the many innovative resource sharing and delivery practices in use today.”

Physical Delivery of Library Resources is available for free download at: All libraries involved in resource sharing, as well as delivery, sorting, courier and transportation service providers, are encouraged to adopt these recommendations.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.