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Wendy Zirkin, former teacher and media specialist, and currently the the district-wide administrator of Destiny at Escambia County (FL) School District, explains how textbook tracking software saved her money and her sanity.

Tracking your textbooks<br />
Tracking your textbooks

Want to save almost a quarter of a million dollars in less than two years? We did by implementing a Web-based textbook management system. Before, each of our 75 schools in Escambia County (FL) School District was responsible for its own textbook management, ordering its own books and maintaining individual inventories. We knew that hand-counted inventories were unreliable. We also knew that we needed a better way of doing textbook inventory and management at the district level. We had to automate the process.

The Destiny Textbook Manager from Follett Systems enables us to make the best use of textbook assets by moving them around within the district. Each textbook has a barcode, so we can track how many books each school has, whether they are being used, and even which books have been assigned to each student. If one school needs 10 copies of a science book, I can find another school with extra copies and ask it to transfer them to the school in need.

In fact, the management system significantly expedites transfer requests between our schools. In the past, when a school needed more books, it would try contacting other schools. The majority of schools helped each other out, but some facilities would hoard their extras. Today, I can check the system and see that a school has 45 available copies but only 20 students who need them, so I can tell it to transfer the books.

New Schools, Used Books
The system also makes it easier to keep track of textbooks when consolidating existing schools. In the past, when we closed a school, we started with a rough estimate of books based on the prior year’s hand-counted inventory. When we sent the books to a new school, the receiving school had to wait for the paperwork to arrive before it could add the books to its inventory and get them into the students’ hands.

It’s much simpler now. During the summer of 2007, we closed or consolidated a number of schools. Our tracking software told me exactly how many copies of each title were at each affected school, and it let me electronically transfer the inventory information to the new location. We then boxed the books, and physically sent them to the new schools. As soon as the staff opened the boxes, they could issue the books to the students.

Finally, we are now able to hold students more accountable for their textbooks, because Destiny keeps a record of all fines assessed for damaged or lost books. Now when a student transfers, administrators at the new school can access his or her automated record. They may tell a student, “You didn’t turn in four books at your former school, so we can’t issue new books until you return or pay for those.” We’ve increased our collection of lost-book fees over the past two years. Also, when we find a book left on a bus or in the hall, we can scan the barcode and find out where it belongs.

Financial Savings and Convenience

We implemented the first phase of our new textbook management system during the 2006–07 school year. We started with all 20 of our middle and high schools. In that year, we saved $100,000 on our textbook budget of $1,125,772 just by transferring books among schools rather than buying new ones. During the second stage, beginning in the summer of 2007, we added 23 elementary schools to the system. As of mid-February 2008, we had saved more than $148,000 for the current school year.

Our textbook management system has helped generate substantial ongoing savings in our yearly budget—plus it’s made life much easier for everyone involved.

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