Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sunday March 23, 2014 A Day in the Life of a Library Bestseller, or, How Did I Get Here?

One of the questions we often hear at the library is “I’ve had a bestseller on hold for a very long time – why hasn’t it come in yet?”  I’m going to talk about how the fiction bestsellers get onto the shelves in the library and hopefully answer this question.

To start, the books have to be ordered.  The library uses vendors who stock a vast inventory of books from a variety of publishers.  These vendors send out print catalogues (likely to be all online in the future) well in advance of a bestseller’s publication date.  These are “prepub” catalogues.  The actual street date of the book is often 4-6 months in advance of the order catalogues.  For example, Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich has a street date of June 17.  This title was ordered by library staff in October 2013, appearing in our online catalogue on Oct. 31 – that’s 8 months!

The library also orders bestsellers from a company called McNaughton.  These are basically leased books which are returned to the company after the mad rush is over.   Again, the titles in their catalogue are in advance of the street date, usually 3 to 4 months.  Using the Evanovich book as an example again, the library catalogue shows that it was ordered as a McNaughton on Feb. 18.

Now that the orders have been placed we wait until the books arrive via a delivery service.  The McNaughton books are packed in well-marked boxes which are opened right away.   Books that have been ordered from the vendors usually arrive within a day or two of the McNaughtons but it is not easy to tell what is in those boxes - there can be a mix of fiction and non-fiction, regular and bestsellers, adult and children’s material. 

The McNaughton titles are processed right away.  These books are easy to distinguish from our other books since they have a green paper band along the bottom with the letter “M” on the spine.    We also use the McNaughton books for our Fast Lane service.  These are bestsellers which are designed for fast readers on a “first come, first served” basis.  These books can’t have holds placed on them and have a loan period of only one week with a higher late return fee as an incentive to get them back to the shelves quickly.

So what does processing entail?  First, books have to be “received” into the library catalogue system by staff where the status changes from “on order” to “in processing”.   McNaughtons are received right away then sent to be catalogued.   We also generate a list twice a day for books that have been received and have holds.  We search through a number of carts to find the books and catalogue these books first.  A complete catalogue record must be created for each book.  Book jackets are laminated and labels are applied.  The books are then sorted by branch and shipped to staff to “check in” which will activate the hold.   Then you receive your notification that your hold is ready.

We try to process the books as fast as we can.  Bestsellers are given priority and we like to get them to you within a day or two after we’ve received them.  Last year alone we added over 6,200 adult fiction books.  You’re welcome.

Sylvia Renaud

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the first time since I retired, you've made me miss the library. You've reminded me what a well oiled machine it is. I don't think the public realizes how much work goes into getting a book out on the shelf. Thanks for the informative column. kc