Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Story of a Book

Ever wonder the story behind how a book makes it to the library?

How is a book selected? Ideas for books to place in your Library come from many sources. The most obvious is that you and other patrons request or recommend a book. Also, the staff makes recommendations on what materials they think are needed based on their role in your Library. The national best seller lists give us ideas, and we also read book reviews from several sources. The Library Director makes the final decisions, which are of course affected by budgetary restraints.

How is a book ordered? Books and other materials are ordered from many different suppliers. Some books are sent to us automatically because they meet certain criteria. For example, we always order all Greg Iles's books since he is a Natchez author. Generally the primary consideration is price, although many booksellers provide additional services that may affect the decision. For example, our primary bookseller sends all books with a barcode already affixed and provides cataloging information through a website. In addition, some of our books are donated.

What happens when a book arrives? If the book is donated, a determination is made as to whether it is worth adding to the library collection. If the book was purchased, the first thing is to check to make certain the books in the package match what the invoice says is supposed to be there. Then the books have to go through several steps in the Library:
  1. Cataloging. This is a very important and often misunderstood step in placing a book in your Library. This is what makes it possible for you to quickly find the book that you want. Our cataloger uses several sources to make her decisions. First, materials are categorized by type of media: books, tapes, videos, magazines, newspapers, and microfilm. Books are then divided into categories according to the type of reader: Adult, Large Print, Young Adult, Juvenile, and Easy Readers. Next books are further divided into specific categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biographies, and Reference. Fiction is ordered by author and Biographies by the person(s). Nonfiction and Reference are categorized according to the Dewey Decimal System, which has been used by libraries since 1876. In addition, all materials are coded with the appropriate subjects and keywords, to help patrons find materials. Finally, all this information must be entered into the computer so that patrons have access to the information. At this point, patrons will be able to find the book in our catalog, but it's status will be "in cataloging," and it can't be checked out yet.
  2. Processing. All items have a barcode label which is its unique identifier in the Library and also allows the book to be scanned for checkout and checkin. Books and other materials also have a label, called a spine label, that is easily visible from the shelf and that tells you where they are located in the library. All books must be covered with a special plastic cover, called a dust jacket, to protect it. Several pieces of information are stamped or written in each book: when it was received, which branch library it belongs to, and the warning for misuse. Plus all items are "hotted" which means it will set off an alarm if taken out of the library without being checked out.
  3. Circulation. The item's status is changed from "processing" to "checked in" and is then available to be checked out by patrons. New books are usually placed in the "New Books" section of the library for about 6 months, before they are placed in their permanent location.

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