Database for Item Loans
One of the common requests we receive is a database for keeping track of product loans. Whether you rent out products for a business, offer tools to employees for work, lend out products for a school library, advance items to students, or bestow sporting goods to athletes, a well-designed computer database can help you with your endeavour. Software can help you keep track of where your items are, when they are due back, what condition they are in, and when they are due for replacement. Managing this information in a spreadsheet or on paper becomes cumbersome and has its limits.
Larger companies and organizations like Home Depot and the Library of Congress use sophisticated loan and circulation tracking systems to keep track of their items. However, you don’t need to be a huge enterprise to benefit from an item lending app. Even if you just routinely lend items to employees, friends, roommates and neighbours, software can help you! Once you adopt an item lending app or database, you will realize huge speed and efficiency improvements. You will understand if you have enough equipment and resources in inventory, you will be able to see which items are not being used, and your system will help you track down missing or overdue items.
Item Lending Form
If you have a small business, you might currently be managing your item loans using paper lending forms. Although you can use a paper form to record name and contact info of people borrowing items, along with the item due date, paper forms have several disadvantages. First, while an item is on loan if you need to find out who has it you need to manually go through all of your paper forms. Second, if the form gets lost or stolen you will lose track of who has your items. Finally, you need to manually keep track of when an item is due, to follow up on over due items. Clearly all this paperwork can quickly get out of hand!
By using an electronic item lending app combined with a database you can avoid all of the above issues. Using an app, you can easily search for items and borrowers. You can also make backups of your database, to prevent loss. And the software can give you reminders when an item is due back, and you need to follow up with a borrower.
Item Borrowing System
Setting up a system to keep track of items loans may include several different components. First your item lending app needs to include an inventory database where the items you lend out are stored. This database may include the item name, value, type, condition notes and images. Next, you will want a circulation component that lets you manage item check ins and item check outs. The final main component may be a mechanism to keep track of item borrowers. This list will also be maintained in an internal database. Each of these components is discussed in greater detail below.
Tracking Item Circulation in a Digital Library
An item loan tracking system should be able to record when an item is checked out, when it’s due and when it’s checked back in. It should also be able to track the contact details of the person who has the item. And a circulation system may also include functionality to renew items for a longer time period.
To speed up item check in and check out you may also opt to use a barcode scanner. For barcode scanning to work you either need to be able generate a barcode label and affix the label to the item, or the item already has to have a barcode. Examples of items that already have barcodes include books (in the ISBN), videos and CDs. For other items like tools, camping equipment and musical instruments you would need to generate your own barcodes. For more information, please see our “All About Barcode Scanners” article.
Barcodes can also be used to track patrons and users of your service. For this to work patrons will need to have a membership card that has a printed barcode. Your item lending app or database will also need an area where you can store a list of your patron information (including names, contact info etc.). Once this patron list is entered, when an item is checked out, you should be able to automatically enter a borrower’s information, by simply scanning their membership card.
Other features you may look for in a circulation component include the ability to reserve or hold items at a future date. For example, an item borrower may need a tool for an upcoming job. If you routinely have these types of requirements, you want to make sure that your system can handle item reservations and holds. Also, you may want your system to be able to generate requisition numbers, where each check out activity is assigned a unique ID. This id number will let you quickly find all items that were checked out at the same time, and may also assist with the bulk renewal of items.
Tracking Item Condition
When you lend items out, one of your primary concerns might be ensuring that your property is returned in the same condition as it’s lent out. Especially for short term loans, you are not expecting to get items back with significant additional wear and tear. Using a database system that supports image tracking, you can maintain a list of detailed photos for every item. The photos can show every angle of an item including right, left, top and bottom. Interior pictures can also be saved if applicable. Any existing damage can be documented. Then when the item is returned you can easily compare the returned appearance with the saved appearance in photos. In the unfortunate instance where there is some additional damage, you can take new photos before you lend the item out again.
Equipment Lending Agreement
When you lend an item out, you also want to setup terms and conditions with the borrower, in a formal contract. This is especially the case for specialized tools and equipment. This agreement should include a complete list of the items borrowed. Clauses on this agreement may also include a stipulation that the item is returned in the same condition it was checked out (minus expected wear and tear). If the item is not returned in the same condition, you may want to make the borrower responsible for the repair or replacement cost.
Also, you should make it clear that the borrower is responsible for the proper use of the item, and the borrower is also responsible for any training or licensing required to use the item. For example, if you are lending out fishing equipment, your borrower would be responsible for getting their own fishing license. If your borrower is unsure about how to properly use something, it’s their responsibility to learn. If you have insurance that covers certain contingencies (like floods or fires), the agreement should mention this “force majeure”. Lastly, the agreement should clearly state when the item is expected back, where it should be returned and any late charges or fees.
If you are using an item lending app or database, your software may be able to automatically generate an agreement that your borrower can sign (either electronically or on paper).
Maintaining Adequate Insurance
Another advantage of tracking your items in an app is you can generate reports showing you the total value of your inventory. You can then compare the total value to the amount of your insurance, and make sure that you are carrying adequate insurance in case of an unexpected disaster or loss. You will also want to check with your insurance company to find out what events are covered while the item is lent out. For more information on insurance inventory please see our “Asset Tracking Database for Insurance Inventory” article.
Item Lending Legal Requirements
Depending on what you are lending out, you may need to be aware of various rules and regulations in your jurisdiction. For example, you may not be able to lend out intellectual property that is protected by copyright restrictions. Before you decide to lend something out, you should make sure that you have the authority to do so.
Integration with Other Systems
Your item lending app or database may just be one component in a larger IT infrastructure. In this case you may want the ability to import and export information to and from other systems. This other information may include item inventories and borrower lists. You may also want to integrate your system with a website where item borrowers can view inventory online. If you require this type of integration, you should research the interoperability features of your system.
Tracker Ten and Item Loans
Many of our windows desktop Tracker Ten applications include the ability to track item loans. These products include an inventory database along with an area to keep track of item check ins and check outs. Some examples include:
In fact, if you have specialized needs, we can create an item lending app for pretty much any application. Please contact us for details.