Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No time for reading at the library

I had to laugh when I read the opening sentence in a recent “Library File” column in the Ukiah Daily Journal: “Oh, you are so lucky to be a librarian; you get to read.” I need count no further than one digit on one hand to enumerate the times I have gone to a library and the person on duty was reading a book.

In fact, for the time that I volunteer each week, I am engaged in activity that more closely resembles a light calisthenics workout than a sedentary chance to read.

Eliza Wingate’s column in the March 23 UDJ outlines all the various tasks that go into a day at the Ukiah Library. Her counterparts at Lake County Library branches could undoubtedly write columns of their own expressing a similar sentiment.

To give readers only a small example from the efforts that I am exposed to, staff and volunteers pull lists three times a day of items that patrons have requested. Those items are scanned for routing information and then packed into crates for pick-up.

At the receiving end, Wingate reports, “There are 40 to 60 crates of books, audiobooks, movies, etc. (from other libraries) to unpack five days a week. Many of these must [be] checked in twice and then put out on the hold shelf waiting for you to pick them up and check them out.”

Multiply that figure for all the other branches in the Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries; crates of books travel back and forth continuously between libraries in our three-county system. Human efforts pulled those items from shelves, prepared them for transport and unpacked them at the other end.

When materials are returned (another satisfied customer!) they have to be replaced on the shelves. That involves steady, continuous effort for the duration of my time. Like I said, it’s a calisthenic workout, one of my favorite times of the week.

Sometimes books are out of order on the shelves and they require resorting too: fiction alphabetized by author and then by title within that author’s set and non-fiction organized according to the numerical Dewey system.

In order for those items to have made it to the shelves is a story in itself. One of the benefits of my class this year in library collection development was to learn from our county Library Director Susan Clayton about how the library orders books. Working from reviews in Library Journal, she locates a book and then places her order with the library supplier.

Once the books arrive, of course, they must be equipped with a barcode and information about them input into the catalog system. The Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County library inventories are all combined in this system, all readily available to a person who has a library card.

Wingate’s column makes for interesting reading because it illustrates all the work that goes into library operations day-to-day.  Much of it is beyond the scope of what I do as a part-time volunteer each week. It presents a much more in-depth picture that helps me see my efforts as part of a larger whole.

Published April 12, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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