Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Pick List: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

Volunteering in the library is worth doing. I began my library volunteer life after I retired from work as, you guessed it, a librarian. I was barely out the door after my retirement party at the Edgerton library when I walked into the Meadowridge library near my home and asked them to give me something to do. They said to come in on Mondays. They gave me the pick list. What’s that?

In case you are wondering how those books, videos and other items show up for you to take home from your library when they aren’t in its collection, here is the answer. The magic of automation and a real person get together to find them and send them to your home library, thanks to the pick list. Your job is to interact with your library’s catalog, find the book or other item, place a hold on it if it isn’t on the shelf where you are, and then wait. If you are catalog challenged, you ask a person who works in the library. You can place holds from home, too. Your library will notify you when that terrific novel arrives, so you can pick it up. How good is that?

The library’s automated system produces the request list daily. Someone, such as me or a library employee, finds the items. The staff people then pack them up and send them to the appropriate libraries to check out there.  If you have asked for the latest novel by Janet Evanovich, and it has five hundred people ahead of you on the list, you must wait your turn. That novel has many copies owned by various libraries, but just like your children, you must wait your turn.

Thomas Jefferson invented a system for organizing his many books, which became the beginning of The Library of Congress. Organizing materials is an old idea. Public libraries mostly use the Dewey Decimal System. They are cataloged and shelved according to call numbers on the spines of the books. Who determines the call numbers? Librarians, of course. Call numbers tell shelvers where to put those items and people like you and me where to find them. Those DVDs, books and other things don’t just jump into my little basket like a puppy. I must find them with the help of those call numbers on the printed pick list.

Of course we have some challenges. The books on the shelf may not be in good order. The music CDs are never in perfect order. Browsers often don’t think about the Dewey Decimal System when they stuff materials back on the shelves. Sometimes we are unable to find items on the pick list. Kids often leave books on the floor. I hate to say this, but sometimes library users are impolite even though it’s a good thing for them to be comfortable in the library. Silence is old school.

Many libraries use volunteers in addition to the people who work there. Before I retired I worked with volunteers in several libraries, including teenagers and people with disabilities. Typical volunteer jobs have included the pick list and shelving. Sometimes volunteers presented children’s storytimes in libraries where I worked.

The pick list has broadened opportunities for people who once had to travel to other libraries to access their collections. I’m glad it’s there.

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