It seems others share my pain. Thank you for the creative feedback and empathy. I think our solution is going to be using the label maker to create a "take one per person, please" label for the lip of the shelf. I'd like to share the responses I received. Reading the first response was an eye-opener and took the sting out of my situation. Thanks to all of you. Since we can't do attachments, this is a little long.
1. My cautionary experience from the Nineties.
I checked our display next to the elevators on two different floors (Outpatient Clinics and Cafeteria) every day for years on my way to lunch. Every day they were empty and I happily refilled them every day, thinking I had discerned THE optimal places to make the materials available.
We had our Library label or stamp on each copy of a handout. The Marketing Department and the Nursing (Patient) Education Committee were happy with the number of brochures distributed and what a good program we have.
One morning, a very angry electrician from Plant Operations stormed into my Library demanding to know who was responsible for the fistful of old brochures in his hand.
So, for years, whenever I refilled the displays, someone during the next 24 hours would take the material and drop it down the gap between the floor and one of the seven elevator cars. There were thousands of brochures at the bottom of each of the elevator shafts and the pile got large enough and entangled enough in one of them that the elevator finally choked and broke down.
It cost the hospital several thousand dollars to clean up the mess.
We still have signs at those two locations, but interested people now have to come to the "Patient Experience Center" (...previously the Customer Service Desk. What will they euphemize next?) in the Lobby to peruse the brochures. The displays are only available when the desk is staffed
2. I wonder about some sort of "out of stock, please contact the library for additional copies" note? Then you might figure out who is doing it, and let them know how they can order their own copies. Tricky problem, though.
3. Do you indicate where people can get more copies for themselves or where they can download them online, if that is possible? Do you indicate that these cost money and ask people to be considerate of the needs of others? You could just put one copy, laminated, attached to the display case (like they do in computer stores with "selection advice" brochures) and make people approach a human at a desk.
I would do a cost/benefit analysis to decide which alternative makes the most sense for your facility.
4 . I put up signs asking that patrons do not take the last pamphlet, but it doesn't work. I have found out that the nursing staff has been taking some information to pass on to their patients and that some therapists who are working in the community have used our resources with their patients. All in a good cause, but I know your grief. In a newsletter I asked the nursing staff to contact the library if they were using our material so I could give them the information to obtain their own copies. That didn't work. It's just easier to pick them up in the Center's pamphlet room, which is unmanned. I try to get all of our material for free, so it isn't costing us anything but time, which is a tremendous expense for me now that I'm a solo. I have a trained volunteer who helps. However, if you are paying for the pamphlets, that is a cost issue. Maybe you can put up a sign saying there is a limit of one copy per person. Obviously, this is a popular service so it would be a shame to discontinue it.
5. I put up signs asking that patrons do not take the last pamphlet, but it doesn't work. I have found out that the nursing staff has been taking some information to pass on to their patients and that some therapists who are working in the community have used our resources with their patients. All in a good cause, but I know your grief. In a newsletter I asked the nursing staff to contact the library if they were using our material so I could give them the information to obtain their own copies. That didn't work. It's just easier to pick them up in the Center's pamphlet room, which is unmanned. I try to get all of our material for free, so it isn't costing us anything but time, which is a tremendous expense for me now that I'm a solo. I have a trained volunteer who helps. However, if you are paying for the pamphlets, that is a cost issue. Maybe you can put up a sign saying there is a limit of one copy per person. Obviously, this is a popular service so it would be a shame to discontinue it.
6. You don't want to discourage people from asking for and receiving information, but people LOVE freebies and they will take advantage, some without meaning to. Maybe you could add a sign that says "one per person, please" or "please visit the library if you need large quantities" or something along those lines? See how that goes? I guess I would also ask the objective of the brochure stands - for informative purposes only, or also PR for the library? Since the brochures are being bought and managed by the library, I would think the latter - you want people coming to you and asking for information, not just getting it out of a brochure. Maybe rethink the brochure stands, their objective, their location, weigh the pros and cons..
7. Maybe something as simple as a sign saying please help yourself to one copy. If you need multiple copies for a class or a group to contact the library.
8. One thought may be to put some cards for contact (your name and phone number for example) if anyone requires more than 1 copy of anything. It's possible they might contact you and you could let them know how to purchase, or see if was another hospital dept that you could bill, or put them in contact with patient ed, community contact, or community outreach dept if they have needs that could be filled by these depts.
You could attach the brochure cover of whatever goes in that slot (glue, rubber cement?) and have a little notice to contact you if they were all given out and just fill w 2 at a time for a while, and see what happens. If you are already checking these twice a day, it would be easy to run up and hand deliver to whomever called. You could even put that on the little notice; "Call this number and we'll be right up to deliver your desired brochure." OR, you could have the cover of the brochure attached, as above, then the notice could say "come by the library to pick up your complimentary copy of this brochure."
You might just have to do one of these interventions for a while, until people get out of the habit of scarfing up multiple copies, and then go back to what you started, originally....
Maybe someone else will have better ideas. It does present a dilemma.
I will be looking forward to seeing what others might suggest.
Good luck w this.
9. Some suggestions: Post a prominent sign with diplomatic wording that indicates only one of each type of brochure per person. (Maybe something along the lines of "our limited budget allows us to offer just one copy of each ..."). Also post a notice that larger quantities can be obtained by contacting you (or whomever). Or maybe you should indicate that people desiring larger quantities are requested to contact you for information on how to obtain those quantities. You may not want to pay for extra copies for the people who need bulk amounts, but at least you'll get a handle on who is wiping out your supply on display. If all else fails, move the display to a place where it can be better monitored (not your first choice, I'm sure.).
Brenda Vest, Librarian
HSL, Bldg. 300, RM 4A-09
Fort Gordon, GA 30905