Pulling back the curtain on secrets of Neill Public Library

Have you ever wondered what secrets lurk in that room behind the circulation desk at Neill Public Library? Just what are staff doing back there, anyway?

Aside from being the place we park the shelving carts, and housing some work spaces for both circulation and adult services, the bulk of the room houses the library department known as technical services.

So, just what is technical services, and what do we do? Although the library’s operations are currently on pause, we will, at some point, resume normal operations. When you return to the library and peek into the back room, you’ll have a better understanding of some of what goes on behind the scenes in order to provide you with materials, both physical and electronic.

So, what types of materials do we handle in technical services?

The obvious answer is, of course, books.

While books make up the bulk of our materials, there is so much more at the library: both entertainment and nonfiction DVDs, magazines, kits — such as book club kits, Lego boxes, and educational boxes — as well as other, less-expected items. We have Ozobot kits and even ukuleles. In addition to physical items, technical services also ensures that our ebook and e-audio offerings, available through the Washington Anytime Library, are added to our public catalog.

What do we actually do in technical services? When items that will be added to the library’s collection arrive, a representative from either adult services or youth services places a work slip in each item identifying in which library collection the item should be placed.

A library technician then creates a catalog record for the item, adds a barcode label, and prints a spine label so the item can be found on the shelf. I’ll leave a delve into the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal System for a later date.

Once an item is added to our catalog, it is immediately available for you to request – and if the item is requested, it’s moved to the front of the line for finishing. Finishing sounds like a terminal event, but it’s actually just library jargon for the work staff does to physically prepare the items for borrowing.

Labels are attached and label protectors are added. Some items are wrapped in plastic covers while others are either partially or fully laminated. The purpose of this stage is to protect the items, thus ensuring that they’ll be durable enough to be enjoyed by many patrons for years to come.

Once through the finishing stage, items and their catalog records are then checked for accuracy and consistency, and passed along to the circulation department, ready to be enjoyed by you, our public.

While technical services work is behind the scenes, our ultimate goal is to serve our library users.

We do what we do to make sure you can find what you’re looking for in the catalog, borrow what you want and need, and make sure those items will hold up for years of enjoyment. We can’t wait to get back to work to continue to serve you.

Paul Slaughter is the technical services supervisor at Neill Public Library.

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