Skip to content
Penn State University Libraries

Floating Collection

BookFloat logo

Floating Collection at Penn State

Penn State University Libraries have around one million floating books at nineteen campus libraries located throughout the state. 

At Penn State, a floating collection is a group of books that are not housed permanently at one specific library, but instead are shelved in the library where they were most recently discharged.  When a floating book is sent to a participating library, it will remain at that location after being returned by the borrower, saving the time and cost of returning it to the original library.  Library users will not be able to identify floating books, other than noticing that some books they received from other library locations end up on the shelf of their library when returned.

  • Floating books may be requested via “I Want It” by users at any Penn State location.
  • Floating books circulate for a regular loan period.
  • Floating books can be returned to any library location.

Floating Collection libraries are located at the following campuses:

  • Abington
  • Altoona
  • Beaver
  • Behrend
  • Berks
  • Brandywine
  • DuBois
  • Fayette
  • Greater Allegheny
  • Hazleton
  • Harrisburg
  • Lehigh Valley
  • Mont Alto
  • New Kensington
  • Schuylkill
  • Shenango
  • York
  • Wilkes Barre
  • WScranton     

Not all books within the Libraries’ system are floating.  Floating books are limited to circulating monographs in the general stacks locations of the participating libraries. 

Not all library locations are participating.  Books located at University Park libraries (Pattee, Paterno, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering, Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Dickinson School of Law Library, and Annex), Penn State Hershey Health Sciences Library, Great Valley, and Dickinson School of Law Library at Carlisle do not float.   


Holdings in the CAT

What a floating book looks like in the CAT

It is impossible to identify a floating book in the CAT.  All participating libraries have the generic "Stacks - General Collection" CAT Location description for their stacks locations. 

In the example above, Berks, Mont Alto, and York are all Floating Collection participating libraries and therefore display "Stacks - General Collection" in the Location description.

However, Berks actually has a floating book from Greater Allegheny, but the CAT only shows that Berks has an available book. 

WorkFlows holdings of a book

What a floating book looks like in SirsiDynix WorkFlows Client

Staff can identify a floating book in the WorkFlows staff client.  In the example above, the "Home location" of STACKS-MK shows that the book is from Greater Allegheny.  However, the "Item library" of BERKS means that the book is currently shelved at Berks library.  

The Home Location is important to help staff identify the original owning library.  For example, if a book gets damaged and needs replaced, the book can be sent back to the owining library to make that decision.  

Example of a floating book going through the system

  • User borrows a Fayette book
  • Book is returned to Harrisburg
  • It then stays and is shelved at Harrisburg

This same book is requested by a University Park user.  University Park is not part of floating collection.

  • This Fayette book appears on Harrisburg's pickup report
  • Harrisburg sends the book to University Park
  • The University Park user checks out the book 
  • The University Park user returns the book to University Park
  • University Park staff discharge it
  • Book goes in-transit

Where does it go?  The book is returned to Harrisburg because Harrisburg was the most recent floating collection item library for that book.


E-ZBorrow Holdings

What does a floating book look like in E-ZBorrow?

The location description in E-ZBorrow shows the item library/home location combination. 

In the example above of BERKS STACKS-MK, E-ZBorrow shows that Berks has the Greater Allegheny book on their shelf.  If a user from another library requests this book, the E-ZBorrow system recognizes that Berks has the book and then sends the request to Berks library. 


Uborrow holdings

What does a floating book look like in Uborrow?

Uborrow is from the same vendor (Relais International) as E-Zborrow.  Therefore, it shows the item library/home location combination. 

Uborrow requests are processed through ILLiad, which means that ILL staff would place a hold within WorkFlows for the book and campus staff would process it as a regular WorkFlows hold.

Retaining the original library in the SirsiDynix record

The Penn State Floating Collection premise is that the original owing library of the book retains ownership of that book, regardless of where it floats within the system.

Ownership of books will be identified and remain in the Home Location field in WorkFlows, the SirsiDynix staff client. This enables staff at a floating library to contact the owning library if there are questions or problems with a particular book. For example, instead of making a decision to withdraw a book because of poor condition, the shelving library can return the book to the owning library to make that decision.

The change for technical processing staff is to use the item type BOOKFLOAT for new monographs going to the general stacks of the participating libraries. Since book orders are attached to an item number, there are no changes to book purchasing or processing preparation for books at these campuses, such as property stamp, call number, barcode placement, and security tag. Books purchased by endowment funds have a note in the 541 field stating the book was purchased for a particular campus with endowment funds, thus identifying the owning library in the CAT record.

The Floating Collection Project

“If the University Libraries collection is one collection geographically dispersed, why do we have to ship our books back to the library of origin after they have been borrowed by a patron?” When this question was posed at a 2009 campus librarians’ retreat, Penn State University Libraries’ Administrators were curious if this idea could be a reality. A task force was commissioned to investigate whether a book returned at one location could indeed stay at that location instead of being shipped back to the owning library, a floating collection. After investigating, the task force recommended that a floating collection be piloted at Penn State.

The Floating Collection Pilot began on May 6, 2011. Penn State Fayette, Harrisburg, Hazleton, and York libraries participated. The Libraries ILS, SirsiDynix Symphony, had a floating collection feature which enabled these libraries' circulating book collections in their general stacks locations to be shared in a different manner. Books borrowed from within the participating libraries remained at one of the floating libraries when returned, whereas the system placed books from non-participating libraries in-transit. With the pilot proving successful, it was decided to incorporate the remaining campus libraries. Six Phase Two libraries (Behrend, Greater Allegheny, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, Schuylkill, and Shenango) migrated to floating collection on November 16, 2012. Phase Three, the remaining nine libraries (Abington, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, DuBois, New Kensington, Wilkes Barre, and W. Scranton) migrated February 20, 2013.


Resources (Staff Only)

Stats and Charts (Staff Only)

Snapshot of Floating Book Totals (Jan 2016)

Floating Books Comparison Charts - May 2013 - Oct 2015

IDS Activity (2011-2016 fees)

BookFloat Item Type Checkouts (Jan 2016)  


Relative Training Bulletins (Staff Only)

Access Services Training Bulletin #31  A Detailed Process Outline

Access Services Training Bulletin #36  How to Prevent a Monograph in Your Stacks Location from Floating

Access Services Training Bulletin #34  Supplying Floating Books via Access PA

Access Services Training Bulletin #37  Tracking Floating Collection Books by Library

Access Services Training Bulletin #38  Returning Floating Books to the Original Owning Library


Relative Background Information (Staff Only)

Floating Collection Pilot 2011

Floating Collection Pilot: Presented as a poster session at the PaLA annual conference 2011

Hold Pickup List Example

Floating Collection Poster ALA and ACRL 2013

Floating Collection Poster PaLA 2013

ALCTS Webinar Floating Collection 2013

Access Services Conference Nov 2014


Additional Resources

Collections Mobility Task Force

Charge and Reports (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014)

July 2013: The Collections Mobility Task Force became the Floating Collection Expert Team

Floating Collection Expert Team
Barbara Coopey, Access Services
Valerie Allen, Cataloging and Metadata Services Serials Team
Wertney Cox, Lending Services
Barbara Eshbach, York Campus Library
Valerie Lynn, Hazleton Campus Library
Trish Notartomas, Access Services
Nonny Schlotzhauer, Social Sciences Library