Shelf. Life

A look at what's happening at Willard

Follow the book

Dozens of books and DVDs await processing.

Do you ever wonder what happens before new books hit the shelves? Here's a special behind the scenes tour of the Acquisitions and Technical Services Department here at Willard. I'll walk you through the ordering process and what happens as soon as books are delivered from our vendors. So, let's follow the book!

Part 1: Selection

Ordering for both the downtown location and the Helen Warner Branch is divided among a team of 15 staff members. Each staff member is assigned an area (or multiple areas) to oversee. Special care is taken when selecting items to purchase. We look at specialized library ordering journals, publisher catalogs, and customized selection lists from vendors. We try to predict what's going to be popular and look at what's trending. It's not always an easy task. In my opinion, Willard staff does an awesome job selecting materials.

Part 2: Ordering

Orders are compiled and sent to our book and media vendors once a day, through a process called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). It's a fancy process where item information (title, author, price, format, etc.) is imported into the library catalog. This allows library guests to see what items are on order and place holds as soon as we decide to purchase them. Each batch of item records are compiled into orders, which are then linked to the appropriate budget in our system. This all happens in about 30 seconds from the point of downloading the file. The order files are then sent electronically to our vendors, and they begin processing our orders.

Part 3: Arrival

A couple of weeks later, items arrive. The Acquisitions and Technical Services Department receives new items daily. Staff members unbox the orders, mark them as received in our system and send them off to be cataloged. Catalogers import MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging Record) records into the online catalog. These records contain pertinent item information, including title, author, publication date, and related subjects. The MARC record, along with assigning the location, item type, call number, and applying the correct stickers, spine labels, etc, are the keys to helping us (and you) find items on the shelf.

After cataloging, items go through a "quality control" check to ensure the item record matches the processing information. We process tens of thousands of items each year, and occasionally make mistakes. Seriously, in 2019, more than 31,000 items were added to Willard's collection!

Finally, items arrive on the shelves. Turn-around time, once items enter the building, is generally a few days. However, I've seen items arrive, go through receiving and cataloging, and hit the shelves all in the same afternoon.

Items are taken to the Circulation Department, where they are checked in and routed to the appropriate locations. New release books are displayed as soon as you walk in the door at either library location. They remain here until they are checked out.

Unusual shipments

In my 10 years here, I've seen a lot of materials go through this process.

I'll never forget when "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" was published. We generally receive books ahead of the publication date so that staff have time to process them before the release date. When Harry Potter arrived, I had to sign an agreement to seal the books back into their box immediately after we processed them. Only a select few staff members were allowed to handle the books, and absolutely no one was allowed to read it!

Once, I opened a box to find a large piece of metal in with the books. When I contacted our book supplier, we discovered that part of their packaging machine had broken while boxing up our books.

I have also found several of my favorite books while unboxing freight shipments. My to-read list is miles long, and grows each time I open a freight shipment. Someday I hope to find the time to make a dent in my list.

What I love the most of all is seeing all the brand new, sparkly books waiting for future readers.

April is reading "The Institute" by Stephen King.

We're here for you
Good reads for a wintry month


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Wednesday, 27 October 2021